Here at the British Postal Museum and Archive, we’re always keen to engage our younger audiences with the story of the postal service – this is why we welcomed a group of local children to the archive last week to investigate the Post Office Underground Railway, aka Mail Rail. The workshop was day one of a two day mini-project, in collaboration with 1A Arts Centre.
The group began their investigatory workshop by using the wonderful resources at their (white gloved) finger tips – the archive repository. Helen Dafter, one of our archivists, led the children to where the material is stored; enabling them to explore and find out what sort of things are kept in an archive and how they are looked after.
The budding archivists next had the opportunity to use the skills they had discovered with Helen. Through investigating some original material related to Mail Rail, which they had helped to retrieve in the repository, they soon became experts on the incredible underground system!
The children’s detective work enabled them to find out the facts of the network, however they were just as interested to discover what life was like down in the railway. Images from the collection and the photographs displayed in our Mail Rail exhibition allowed the group to empathise with the workers and to understand how the system was operated. Original objects – such as mail bags also brought this understanding to life for the children.
Inspired by the collection and what they had discovered, the group finished the workshop by creating some collage art work.
On the following day the children made their way to the 1A Arts Centre, equipped with their new found expertise on the Post Office Underground Railway! During the creative writing workshop, ran by artist Teanne Andrews, the group developed stories exploring ‘the day in the life of’ a worker.
These workshops form part of a creative project, ‘Our Bloomsbury’, led by a group of partner organisations (Holborn Community Association, 1A Arts, Charles Dickens Museum, Elaine Duigenan, Art Workers’ Guild, October Gallery and British Postal Museum and Archive). Artist Elaine Duigenan and a team of young film makers have been filming a fantastic summer programme of workshops and events, held at the partner venues. The final film will be screened at the Art Workers’ Guild during the Bloomsbury Festival, showcasing the diverse cultural and historical experiences on offer in the area. Keep an eye out on our website to find out more about the film and when it will be screened.
– Hannah Clipson, Community Learning Officer