Tag Archives: museums

Dear Amie

At the BPMA we regularly work with local community groups, engaging them with our collection and listening to their stories. The outcome is always rewarding, but sometimes the way these groups interpret our collections is truly heart-warming. The BPMA Community Learning Officer, Hannah Clipson, tells us about her experience working with a group of 10 trafficked women known as the Amies.

During the summer of 2014 I spent 12 weeks working with the Amies on a project run in partnership with the October Gallery to investigate the design history of the postal service. These women are of diverse nationalities and ages; brought together by PAN Arts, a London based Arts Company, and The Poppy Project, an organisation providing support, advocacy and accommodation for trafficked women, and as such had a wide range of experiences and outlooks.

Over the course of the 12 weeks we looked at the changing uniforms of postal workers, the process of stamp design, the poster collection and mail art.

Examples of mail art from the BPMA collections

Examples of mail art from the BPMA collections

Inspired by their own experiences and the objects and stories explored in the BPMA collections, the group responded in creative ways, guided by the artist Ella Phillips from October Gallery. We designed our own stamp artwork, sent our own mail art through the post and they sent letters to family and friends, some examples of which you can see below. In addition, each participant had their own sketch book that they could add to during the workshops and in their own time.

Some of the work created by the Amies

Some of the work created by the Amies

Dear Amie exceeded our expectations; not only did it facilitate a range of positive outcomes for the participants but it also proved invaluable to the BPMA. One of the participants described her pride in having created positive experiences and a new life for herself and there was an eagerness to develop a second phase of the project in 2015. For this the women decided they’d like to create a textile output which will be displayed in our brand new Postal Museum, due to open in 2016.

Stamp artwork created by the group

One of the Amies design for a stamp showing things important to her

For the BPMA we learned some extremely valuable lessons and gained some remarkable stories of what the postal service means to different people. The level of engagement showed us the true potential of our collection and the diverse ways in which it can be used to inspire a wide range of audiences. The postal theme resonated with the women in a way that we could not have imagined. For most of them, sending a letter to loved ones had been a lifeline through extremely difficult circumstances. Recollection of these memories, stimulated through the exploration of BPMA material, led to a fascinating and unexpected reinterpretation of some of our objects and the discovery of some truly remarkable, personal stories. It reinforced to us that our collection can be interpreted in meaningful, personal ways and act as a catalyst to uncovering touching stories such as those of the Amies.

Ask A Curator

Once again BPMA staff will be participating in Ask A Curator Day, which takes place on Twitter this Wednesday. Ask A Curator Day is an opportunity for members of the public to ask curators anything they like.

Tweet our curators this Wednesday.

Tweet our curators this Wednesday.

Four members of our Collections team will be available to take your questions between 10am and 2pm on 18 September.

10am-11am – Vyki Sparkes, Curator
Vyki has been a Curator at BPMA since 2009. You may remember her podcast on The Post Office and the Blitz, and her blog on the lioness that attacked a mail coach.

11am-12pm – Chris Taft, Head of Collections
Chris oversees BPMA’s Archives and Curatorial teams, and is particularly knowledgeable about Mail Rail. You may remember Chris’ blogs detailing how rolling stock from Mail Rail was retrieved and conserved.

12-1pm – Julian Stray, Senior Curator
Julian has an encyclopaedic knowledge of letter boxes, postal vehicles and much much more. His blog detailing how he restored an Air Mail pillar box is one of our most popular of all time.

1-2pm – Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant
Joanna joined the BPMA team at the start of this year, and has already established herself as one of our top bloggers. Her recent blogs looked at how royalty and literature have been depicted on British stamps, and why France’s latest Marianne stamp was controversial.

Ask our Collections team questions on Twitter on Wednesday 18 September 2013 by following @postalheritage and using the hashtag #AskACurator.

Archivists and Academics

Last month I attended the Teaching History in Higher Education Conference at Senate House. As an archivist, rather than an academic, I was a little nervous. However I am pleased to say that I was made very welcome and came away with a range of ideas for activities that could be adapted to our future work plans at BPMA.

Alongside considering the logistics of moving our collections and the content of our new exhibition space, we are also planning the types of activities we will undertake in our New Centre, including our involvement with formal education.

A life long learning group visits our Museum Store.

A life long learning group visits our Museum Store.

We are already involved in a range of formal and informal learning activities, including collaborative PhDs and teacher placement schemes, but are keen to expand this offer in future. As such the conference provided an interesting insight into the key concerns of the higher education sector and inspiration for potential future activities.

The sessions on workplace learning were particularly relevant. The BPMA’s engagement in this area has been minimal to date, due to both limited staff resources and difficulty in designing activities which are mutually beneficial to both parties. However the presentations on this area gave an insight into the types of projects that could be undertaken and provided ideas for possible future development.

A group of student teachers tours the Royal Mail Archive.

A group of student teachers tours the Royal Mail Archive.

Allannah Tomkins’ paper on the use of creative writing was also useful. Creative writing is an area that the BPMA has explored in our work with school groups. The Post Office itself also has a strong literary tradition with former staff including Edward Capern (the Poet Postman), Flora Thompson (famous for Lark Rise to Candleford), and most notably Anthony Trollope. Therefore there is plenty of scope for exploring historical and literary links in more detail.

The conference provided some interesting ideas, and also some useful contacts. Over the coming months the BPMA will be considering if and how we can embed these ideas into our plans for the future. Watch our website for information on forthcoming activities.

Helen Dafter – Archivist

All-Party Group visit the BPMA

by Adrian Steel, Director

Today we were pleased to welcome members of the All-Party Parliamentry Arts and Heritage Group, led by Lord Crathorne (Chair). The attendees were: Lord Crathorne, Lord Boswell, Lord Selkirk, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, Hugh Bayley MP, Andrew Dismore and Tom Levitt (former MPs). 

Adrian Steel welcomes the All-Party Group to the BPMA

Adrian Steel welcomes the All-Party Group to the BPMA

The group’s visit coincides with the discussion of the Postal Services Bill in Parliament. This Bill has cleared its Commons stages and has now moved on to the Lords.

The group spoke to staff and trustees, were given a tour of the archive search room and repository, and saw some of the philatelic gems including Penny Blacks, and work done preparing for Edward VIII’s coronation stamp issue that was never completed.

The group tours the repository

The group tours the repository

Curator of Philately Douglas Muir shows the group some stamp artwork.

Curator of Philately Douglas Muir shows the group some stamp artwork.

Among other items in the collection the group saw were Ulysses, Sergeant Knight‘s VC, and some posters, as well as some of our education packs and material from the handling collection. 

Viewing items from the handling collection.

Viewing items from the handling collection.

The group were particularly pleased to hear we passed 3000 annual search room visitors for the first time in 2010.