by Alison Norris, Ironbridge Project Assistant
Following a great deal of work by BPMA staff, the contemporary BPMA museum at Blists Hill Victorian town, Shropshire is due to open in late September. Blists Hill is one of ten sites run by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT), and receives around 200,000 visitors a year. This means that the BPMA will now be able to show parts of its unique collection to a great many more people.
The Museum of the Post Office in the Community can be found above the Blists Hill Victorian Post Office on Canal Street. Canal Street was carefully constructed earlier this year, with some buildings being moved brick by brick from original locations, others recreated using the IGMT archive, and each has been fitted out to show a selection of trades, industries and professions from the Victorian era. Many of these buildings are manned by staff in period costume that interpret the contents and demonstrate their functions.
The BPMA Museum of the Post Office in the Community
The museum will be split in to four different sections, each exploring a different theme around the Post Office in the Community.
As well as images and objects, there will also be three audio booths throughout the museum. In each booth, visitors will be able to listen to many different types of people who have either worked at, or used the Post Office, and their thoughts on how it has affected them and those around them.
Post Office Counter Services
A timeline will tell the story of the wide range of services that have been offered over the counter at the Post Office. It will cover services such as pensions, Postal Orders, National Savings Bank, telegrams, telephones and TV licences. A display case will hold objects such as home safes, Post Office Savings Bank books and an early telegram, all of which will help bring depth to the timeline.
Delivering the Mail
The story of the delivery of mail in the community will be made up of three sub-sections. These will cover the local ‘postie’ and their role in the community, delivery equipment such as carts and cycles, and the Post Bus service.
The Letter Carrier
This section will outline the history of the delivery of letters in the community and the evolution of the letter carrier of the early 18th century to the postman / woman of today. A display of hats will demonstrate changes that took place in the uniforms of letter carriers and postmen.
The Hen & Chicks is one of the key objects on display, and will be in this section. Visitors will also be able to see a BSA Bantam motorcycle, fondly remembered by many messenger boys that rode them. More modern electric vehicle trials by Royal Mail will also be looked at.
The Post Bus
Introduced in 1967, the Post Bus can provide a vital service to rural communities. Here, its influence and decline will be explored.
In this section visitors will be able to see a number of types of letter boxes, all of which have, or still do, provide an important service to the community. When pillar boxes were introduced in 1852, they provided convenient and easy posting facilities but only served large towns and cities. In 1857 a cheaper type of box was introduced to serve more rural communities, this was called the wall box. Lamp boxes were originally introduced in 1896 in fashionable London squares for residents who wanted late night posting facilities but are now more commonly seen in rural areas.
The final section will conclude the exhibition by telling the story of the UK postal service today and the loss of Royal Mail’s monopoly and rise of competitor mail companies.
Building the Exhibition
Following a competitive tender process, the BPMA appointed the Hub as the fit-out contractors for the Blists Hill exhibition.
Based in Birmingham, the Hub was established four years ago and has been involved in a number of well-known exhibitions and projects. Most recently they have worked on elements of the Ceramics Galleries at the V&A, which will open in September 2009.
Further information and how to get there
Blists Hill is part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust. The Ironbridge Gorge is on the River Severn, 5 miles (8km) south of Telford town centre in Shropshire.
Take junction 4 from the M54. Follow brown and white signs to Ironbridge Gorge.
Once on the A442 follow signs for Blists Hill Museums.
Please remember that the BPMA exhibition will not be opening until late September 2009.
For more information on directions, or the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, please go to www.ironbridge.org.uk
To find out more about the exhibition itself, please visit our website www.postalheritage.org.uk/ironbridge. Or contact Alison Norris (Ironbridge Project Assistant) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7239 5174.