Tag Archives: library

Archive Stocktake 2012: Tackling the ‘philatelic library’

One of the key tasks I was involved in during our recent stocktake was working on rationalising one of our library collections.

When the National Postal Museum merged with the Post Office Archives in the late 1990s, it bought its own library collection. This collection was boxed up and placed in our repository, since then little work has been done to make this material accessible.

A member of staff checking library duplicates

A member of staff checking library duplicates

In January 2011, during our last stocktake, these boxes were listed. This enabled us to get an idea of exactly what material was there, and plan how best to deal with it in future. As a result of this exercise a large number of duplicate publications were identified within this collection. These have been removed and disposed of over the past year.

During this year’s stocktake, the task was to identify material in the ‘philatelic library’ (the old National Postal Museum Library) which duplicated material held in our existing Search Room library, or in The Royal Mail Archive. This material has also been disposed of.

This task has a number of benefits. It has created space in our repository area, something which is always at a premium. It has also helped us gain more of an understanding of the ‘philatelic library’ and how it relates to our other holdings.

Sorting the staff reference library

Sorting the staff reference library

Over the next year we will review the remaining material in the ‘philatelic material’ to ensure that it remains relevant for our users. Ultimately we hope to fully integrate this material into our Search Room library and make it accessible via our online catalogue. The work during our recent stocktake was one step towards this.

Stocktake is now over and the Search Room reopened to the public on 28 May, and significant progress was made during stocktake in a number of key areas. These have included the removal of duplicate material across a number of collections (including our own in house filing systems), rehousing photographic material to archival standards, ensuring that records are transferred to appropriate repositories, and auditing the second review files. Some tasks are simply too big to complete in a fortnight, but a concerted burst of attention on these activities can help lay the groundwork for ongoing work over the coming months. All tasks have contributed to getting the collections in good condition to move to our new postal museum, and many will also be of benefit to our users in the shorter term. We appreciate the inconvenience that this closure causes, but hope that these blog posts have provided some insight into why it is necessary. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our users for their patience over the last couple of weeks.

Helen Dafter – Archivist

Stocktaking at the archive

Regular visitors to the BPMA’s search room will notice that we have been closed for ‘stock take’ since the start of last week and won’t be reopening until next Monday, 24th January.

Why does the BPMA close for stock take and what happens during this period? Stock take gives BPMA staff both the time and almost as importantly the space to concentrate on large sorting or repackaging tasks that would be very difficult to progress otherwise. Up until this year stock take has taken place for two weeks in December; this year we’ve moved it to January but we’re always open to suggestions as to the most sensible time to hold it and haven’t decided for certain when to schedule it into 2012.

Re-housing film stills and checking duplicate posters

Re-housing film stills and checking duplicate posters.

It involves almost all the archivists among the BPMA’s staff, both in the archive and records management and cataloguing teams (about ten staff in all), working on a number of projects.

What tasks have we been doing? This year’s stock take has concentrated on three main activities: the sorting of Second Review registered files from the 1970s and 1980s into an order that reflects the alpha-numeric code on them prior to cataloguing this material; the repackaging of POST 118 film stills into appropriate preservation housing; listing the contents of boxes from the old National Postal Museum library to fill gaps in the BPMA Library and identify duplicates and redundant material. We have also been sorting and identifying duplicate posters, weeding ‘portfolio’ files (files of secondary non-archive information on various subjects held in the search room), taking photographs of large plans using a rostrum camera and a couple of activities involving our philatelic material.

Photographing a large rolled building plan using a rostrum camera.

Photographing a large rolled building plan using a rostrum camera.

One major benefit of many of these activities is that they will create some badly needed space in our very full repository. They should also speed up the process by which we can make archival material available to the public. So far the activities have been going well though as expected they are taking plenty of time and will generally not be complete at the end of the two weeks.

To anyone who has had to postpone a visit to the search room thank you for your patience and we hope you’ll appreciate the importance of this work.

The BPMA Search Room has new opening times in 2011. In response to a survey carried out in 2010 we will be increasing our Saturday openings to one a month. In order to staff our Saturday openings adequately we will be closed on the Mondays following our Saturday openings. Our next Saturday opening will be 12th February. Full details of our new opening hours  can be found our website.

BPMA library catalogue goes online

Yesterday we uploaded the catalogue of our library collection to our online catalogue for the first time. The library, housed in our Archive Search Room, has a fascinating array of around 3,260 books, journals and pamphlets about postal history and the history of Royal Mail, covering a period from the 18th century to the present day.

There are thirteen main sections to the library – General Postal History, Transport, Technology, Military History, Industrial Relations, Journals, Local Postal History, Philately, Biographies, General Historical Reference, Savings Banks, Art and Design, and Fiction.

The Penny Black Anniversary Book - 1840-1990

The Penny Black Anniversary Book - 1840-1990

The oldest book that has been recorded in the library is John Watson’s Gentleman and Citizen Almanac, which is part of the transport section.

Other fascinating items in the library include The Penny Black Anniversary Book, celebrating the Penny Black’s 150th anniversary and charting other famous stamps such as the ‘Seahorses’ Collection, and two books on saucy seaside postcards by comedian Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Barker’s Book of Bathing Beauties and Ronnie Barker’s Book of Boudoir Beauties. Barker, who died in 2005, began collecting postcards in the 1950s and ended his life with a collection of around 40,000. Many of his postcards featured saucy puns and these are said to have inspired some of his comedy.

A complete list of the publications in the BPMA’s library collection can be viewed by clicking here. To find out about accessing items in the library collection please read the Visit the Archive section on our website.