Tag Archives: Edward VIII pillar box

Meet the Staff: Day in the life of an Exhibitions Officer

In this edition of Meet the Staff, Dominique talks about what it is a like to be an Exhibitions Officer at the BPMA.

Hi, my name’s Dominique and I’m the Exhibitions Officer here at the BPMA. My role is really varied and interesting. I get to work closely with the stories and objects that we hold in our fantastic collection, which I think makes me very lucky.

Very excited to find a Edward VIII pillar box!

I am also a post box enthusiast. Here I am with a very rare Edward VIII pillar box!

How do you cram 500 years of communications history into an exhibition? It’s certainly a challenge, but one I enjoy. Most of my time is spent developing new temporary and touring exhibitions. I also work on the design of the exhibition spaces for The Postal Museum with Mail Rail, due to open in late 2016.

Planning the layout of cases. Simple mock ups using a tape measure and paper really help!

Planning the layout of cases. Simple mock ups using a tape measure and paper really help!

My day completely depends on which exhibition I am working on, and whether we are developing it, or installing it. I love this variety, and being able to see a project right through to delivery.

An average day at the moment will start with me checking requests for our four touring exhibitions. Last Post– our First World War exhibition, has been particularly popular with a variety of host venues recently, due to the centenary of the First World War. I will also telephone Ironbridge Gorge Museums, to check on our larger version of the Last Post exhibition, which they are hosting until the end of March. One of the stories the exhibition tells is of Infantryman Reg Sims, who, in 12 months on the Front, received 167 letters, and himself wrote 242 letters. Telling these individual stories reinforces, for me, why the story that our exhibition is telling is so important.

At mid-morning I will move on to writing exhibition text for our new exhibition: ‘Pop it in the Post: Your world at the end of the street. This exhibition talks about the Victorian letter writing revolution, and how the introduction of the humble pillar box- initially in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, transformed how people were able to post their letters and keep in touch. I write around 200 words, and include about 5 images per panel although I tend to write double the amount of words needed for each panel, and then have to edit it down. Writing the text follows several months work deciding on the exhibition themes, and key messages. Text writing is hugely collaborative – with input from colleagues from the Curatorial, Communications, and Learning teams. We all have to be happy with the messages, and make sure that the text is aimed at the right audience- in this case, families with 7 to 11 year olds.

A character from our new exhibition: a victorian letter carrier

A character from our new exhibition: a victorian letter carrier

Text writing will take me through to mid-afternoon. My final job of the day is to check on the object list for The Postal Museum exhibition space. The shortlist for display currently stands at around 300 objects, and I am responsible for finalising these choices, which are then sent to our offsite designers. Potential objects for display currently include pistols, a cross-written letter, an intact sheet of  Penny Blacks, and a gleaming 19th century mail coach. It is unbelievably exciting to help ensure that these objects will be displayed to the public – some for the first time – and to share with new audiences the richness and diversity of our collection!

 

Our Mail Coach which will be on display in The Postal Museum.

And by then it’s time to head home. As I leave work and walk along Upper Street in Angel, I can’t help but notice the pillar boxes and telephone kiosks that I pass- that remind me of the amazing street furniture that we have in our own collection!

 

Pillar box gold

Team GB’s gold medal winning athletes are not only finding themselves appearing on stamps within 24 hours of their victory, they are also being honoured with a gold letter box in their hometown.

One of the gold letter boxes (image from Royal Mail Stamps & Collectables Facebook page)

One of the gold letter boxes (image from Royal Mail Stamps & Collectables Facebook page)

As with the Gold Medal Winner stamps Royal Mail are dispatching staff to re-paint the letter boxes within a day of each athlete’s victory. There are now gold letter boxes from Penzance to Lossiemouth, with (hopefully) lots more to come.

The gold letter boxes are getting a lot of attention in the media and many people have asked us whether it is unusual to see letter boxes in colours other than the traditional red. In fact it isn’t. When letter boxes first appeared in the British Isles they were painted green so as not to intrude on the landscape.

One of the first pillar boxes to be used in the British Isles, introduced in the Channel Islands circa 1852-1853 (OB1996.653)

One of the first pillar boxes to be used in the British Isles, introduced in the Channel Islands circa 1852-1853 (OB1996.653)

Unfortunately the colour green proved too unobtrusive and people were unable to find them. After experimenting with a chocolate brown colour, the Post Office finally settled on the bright red we know today.

The familiar red pillar box, a rare example of one produced during the reign of Edward VIII, 1936 (OB1994.45)

The familiar red pillar box, a rare example of one produced during the reign of Edward VIII, 1936 (OB1994.45)

In the 1930s some boxes were also painted bright blue to promote the new Air Mail service. Our curator Julian Stray restored one of these rare blue boxes several years ago and you can read all about that on this blog.

A rare blue Air Mail pillar box

A rare blue Air Mail pillar box

Visit http://www.goldpostboxes.com/ to see the locations of all the gold boxes, or read our article on Letter Boxes to find out more about their history.