Tag Archives: collection audit

Appraising and re-housing the Photographic Collection

A few weeks ago Archivist Helen introduced this year’s stocktake. In this post Archivist and Records Assistant Penny McMahon talks about appraising and re-housing the Post Office Photo Library collection (POST 118). This class also contains photographic material created by a number of different departments within the Post Office, including the Public Relations/Communications department and Parcelforce.

We’ve been working on several different deposits such as a collection of photo albums from the 1930s. On first examining the photographs they were not particularly interesting and looked like they mostly, if not entirely, duplicated photographic material already in the archive. However, on closer inspection the photo albums corresponded with lecture training notes in POST 92. The photographs were then kept as they complemented and expanded on items already in the archive collection. Once we decided to keep the photographs they were then taken out of the original folder (making sure to document any metadata contained on or within the folders), placed in acid free Melinex sleeves and placed in acid free photo albums.

A glimpse of the vast photographic collection of POST 118: a junior postman on a motorcycle (POST 118/2040)

A glimpse of the vast photographic collection of POST 118: a junior postman on a motorcycle (POST 118/2040). This example is already part of the collection and has been digitised.

Another item that has been appraised is a large, green, bound album. There is a Post Office Records note pasted to the inside of the front cover, dated 1973. It states that the photographs in the album were taken in Britain during 1934-1939 by John Bryson of the Post Office Film Unit. The album is filled with monochrome photographs that depict male and female Post Office and Telegraph workers in uniform, and going about their daily duties. This album was also kept but needs specialist conservation treatment as the photographs are glued down to acidic-paper pages.

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Inside the large green album of photographs from 1934-1939.

More ruthlessly appraised was a collection of slides from the 1980s from the public relations department. These slides included a postcode exhibition display, POCO the Postcode Elephant and the Stamp Bug Land Exhibition 1982, at various venues.

1980s slides.

1980s slides.

-Penny McMahon, Archives/Records Assistant

‘Time to take stock’: archive edition

A few months ago we shared what happens during our museum stocktake. This time we will share what goes on during an archival stocktake. During this time, our Archive team will be updating you on progress and any exciting finds. In this post, we introduce what we will be up to over the next two weeks and what ‘taking stock’ means.

An archive stocktake is part of a number of processes which ensure the good management of an archive and enable staff to preserve, document and make available records to users.

Closing the Search Room for a fortnight (12-23 May) enables all archive staff to get involved in these activities, and use the Search Room space to spread out material, sort it and check for duplication.

The more organised shelves of volumes and documents in the archive repository.

The more organised shelves of volumes and documents in the archive repository.

This year we will be rehousing negatives in POST 118. This material is currently loose on shelves, or in poor quality boxes and needs housing to appropriate standards to ensure its long term preservation. Records which have undergone second review and  have been selected for permanent preservation will be sorted and put to one side ready for cataloguing. Alongside this we will audit and rebox the files still awaiting review and check our documentation to address any issues or inaccuracies.

Photographic negatives  in desperate need of rehousing!

Photographic negatives in desperate need of rehousing!

Annual stocktakes are a part of good archival practices, but at present they take on additional importance as we prepare to move to a new home. By housing loose material such as the negatives, reviewing material for preservation or disposal, and auditing our collections, we ensure that material is adequately documented and housed ready to be moved.

Artist impression of the new repository at The Postal Museum.

Artist impression of the new repository at The Postal Museum.

Finally the stocktake period is an opportunity for all staff to take a step back from their day-to-day routines. They have the opportunity to work on tasks that may not form part of their daily duties and to think about our collections in a different way. Truly a chance to ‘take stock’.

-Helen Dafter, Archivist

Museum Store audit: objects, boxes and pink tape

As many of our readers may already know, our large object Museum Store in Essex holds many fascinating items in the BPMA’s collection, including items such as pillar boxes, telephone kiosks and vehicles. Over the past 6 months or so I have been working out at our store carrying out an audit of the collections, focussing mostly on those stored on the mobile shelving.

The BPMA Museum Store in Debden

The BPMA Museum Store in Debden

The audit of the material held at the store is a necessary exercise and a vital part of good collections management. As part of the audit, I have been systematically cross-checking items on the shelves with the listings on the BPMA’s collections database, checking that the recorded details and locations are correct.

Sarah unwrapping a Post Bus ticket machine for auditing and carefully re-packing the ticket machine ready for re-boxing

Sarah unwrapping a Post Bus ticket machine for auditing and carefully re-packing the ticket machine ready for re-boxing

At the same time I have been assessing the storage and packing of each item, replacing any packing materials which are no longer suitable (often due to age, which can mean they are no longer effectively protecting the object from the external environment). This can be a time-consuming task but planning for the long-term, sympathetic storage of an object means that the collection  can be kept stable and in the best condition for future audiences and researchers  to access and enjoy in years to come.

As you might imagine, the auditing and repacking project is no small undertaking so a methodical approach is essential – which is handy, because I’m rather fond of a good process! In summary, each box is given a unique ‘Mus’ number (printed on green labels) and following completion of the repacking , the database records for each object in that box are updated to include this new box reference. This allows a list to be produced of all the items found in a particular box, a copy of which is included with the contents. To provide a good visual marker, each box (or indeed large item) is tied with pink cotton tape to indicate that it has been audited and repacked.  If anyone had told me at the start of the project that I would find the sight of rows of shelves filled with pink tape heartening, I wouldn’t have believed them – but it’s true!

A view from inside the mobile shelving, showing shelves containing audited objects with lots of lovely pink tape….

A view from inside the mobile shelving, showing shelves containing audited objects with lots of lovely pink tape….

It is not possible for me to talk about the store audit without a special mention for two wonderful BPMA volunteers, Don and Barry who both give their time to assist with the project and have been invaluable, not least because they are a bit taller – I am rather vertically challenged – and can therefore help me reach the higher shelves! With our combined efforts we have recently reached our latest milestone of over 100 audited shelves.

‘And here’s some I did earlier…’ Audited items neatly packed and tied (with even more pink tape) ready to return to the racking.

‘And here’s some I did earlier…’ Audited items neatly packed and tied (with even more pink tape) ready to return to the racking.

Another very enjoyable element of the project is that during the audit I have been able to gather information on items being considered for display at the new postal museum at Calthorpe House which has been great – and provides an excellent excuse to follow up on research for an intriguing item.

There is still a lot of work to do as part of the audit, but much has been achieved in six months and the increasing number of shelves, stacked with boxes tied with pink tape continues to bring a smile to my face on a rainy Monday!

If you are interested in getting involved with this or similar work please contact Sarah Jenkins on sarah.jenkins@postalheritage.org.uk or call 020 8502 2673.

Sarah Jenkins – Curatorial Assistant