Volunteering at BPMA

Fahema Begum writes about what it’s like to volunteer for us…

I studied History at university and was interested in pursuing a career within the heritage and archiving sector. I was curious to gain further insight and experience into this field and that is what attracted me to volunteer at BPMA. I have been volunteering with BPMA since April 2012 so I have been there over a year now! How quickly time has flown by! However my time here is nearing to an end as I have secured a job as an Archives Assistant at the Bank of England. The experience here has been invaluable and I have gained considerable knowledge and skills, which will help me in my new role.

I volunteer at the Royal Mail Archive in Freeling House and had previously assisted on a large project, repackaging and relabeling the postal slogan die collection in preparation for the move to the new Postal Museum site. This was my first time actually handling original objects which was quite exciting! It was fascinating to see what was written on a different slogan die (mainly advertising slogans) and learn interesting facts along the way. It was also great to find out that we had achieved repackaging over forty percent of the slogan die collection!

My current project involves auditing and re-packing objects also in preparation for the move to the new museum. Whilst undertaking this task, I was exposed to more of the collections including objects such as handstamps, uniforms, even trophies and awards for sports. Whilst working on both projects, I have learned new and valuable practical skills such as object handling and preservation/conservation skills as well as learning how to use the CALM collections database. This experience has reinforced my interest in the heritage sector and has equipped me with the relevant skills to acquire a job as an Archives Assistant.

Fahema at work in the Archive.

Fahema at work in the Archive.

Although I have been working mainly on the museum side, I have had the opportunity to talk to one of the many archivists who work at the BPMA; Anna provided me with a brief summary of the archiving system at BPMA. It is surprising how the cataloguing system differs between the museums and archives, and it was useful to gain an overview of the archive side of the organisation.

I think anyone passionate about history would find it interesting to volunteer at BPMA. Also if you are looking to pursue a career within the heritage sector, volunteering is an excellent opportunity to gain an understanding of what the day to day work entails, whilst also developing the relevant skills. The volunteering program offered here is well structured and flexible. Although you work on a specific project at any one time, the work is still tailored to your interests. I have Emma (curator) as a supervisor and she is super organised! She is really supportive and has given me the opportunity to experience, explore and be involved in different aspects of the museum side. She is also extremely approachable and has given me useful career advice.

I really enjoy looking at the many different objects found in the archives and learning about its history. It’s amazing how extensive and varied a collection BPMA has, and only a part of it is housed at Freeling House. What is really exciting and something I am very much looking forward to is the new museum, which will provide visitors access to these unique collections and to learn more about the history of the collection!

Congratulations Fahema on your new job – we’re sorry to lose you. See our website for information about how YOU can Volunteer at BPMA.

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