Tag Archives: science museum

Students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Massachusetts visit the BPMA

We are a group of four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. At the beginning of the summer, from May 12th to June 28th, we had the privilege of working with the British Postal Museum and Archive to develop better visitor evaluation strategies. The goal of our project was to help improve visitor evaluation within their exhibitions which primarily focused on the Last Post Exhibition.

Mail Rail

WPI Students take a tour of Mail Rail

The overall experience was fantastic, filled with opportunities and memories. We were able to visit and explore some of the most popular museums in London including the Natural History, Victorian and Albert, and Science museums. At these museums, we observed visitors to identify what they enjoyed and see how the set up can affect visitor engagement.


Nysa at Last Post Coalbrookdale

We also had the pleasure of working with BPMA visitors. Getting to know those who enjoyed the BPMA’s work, and asking them for helpful insight into what they learned and what they think would improve the sites. Working at events and visiting the Last Post exhibition at Mansfield and Coalbrookdale was a thrilling experience; we not only learned about the exhibitions but also were able to test many different evaluation methods such as interview, surveys, creative writing/drawing activities and observations.


Shuyang with the postal uniform display

We gathered some informative and gratifying feedback, for example one visitor said she “…learned so much more about a city [she had] lived in for 40 years.” Others said that they “did not realize the extent of Post Office involvement in the First World War.” The feedback we gathered was helpful and greatly aided our research objectives.

Enjoying London

WPI Students enjoying London

Aside from gaining new knowledge about museum goers, as a team we were able to improve our professional writing skills, communicate with a broad range of people, and work efficiently in a group setting. This experience also enabled us to grow as young professionals; we believe this project has added to a foundation of what the working world is like.  Living in London was an experience of a lifetime; adapting and working in a different culture will enable us to adapt to all presented opportunities and continue to broaden our understanding of the world.

Thank you,

Angela, Nysa, Shuyang and George

The Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica

Back in May, Science Museum Curator David Rooney gave a talk here at the BPMA on the Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica. The Collection comprises of stamps, postcards and other material related to powered flight and its social impact which was amassed by aeronautical enthusiast Winifred Penn-Gaskell. A recording of David Rooney’s talk about the Collection is now available to download as a free podcast from our website.

Winifred Penn-Gaskell was a distinguished collector of the early 20th Century who in 1938 became the first woman to be inscribed on the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists. Before her death she arranged for her collection to be left to the Science Museum. The collection includes covers from all of the early transatlantic flights and a great many other pioneering airmail flights, along with disaster mail, material related to early ballooning, prisoner of war mail and other items from the Second World War. A tiny fraction of this large collection is on permanent display in the Flight Gallery at the Science Museum.

Items from the Penn-Gaskell Collection

Items from the Penn-Gaskell Collection

Flight in powered craft such as balloons and, later, aeroplanes was of huge interest to people in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. The balloons and aircraft, and the men and women who flew in them, adorned a wide range of memorabilia. In his informative talk David Rooney gives examples of notable memorabilia in The Penn-Gaskell Collection, discusses the fascination with flight and offers an insight into Winifred Penn-Gaskell herself.

The Science Museum website gives further details on The Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica.

The BPMA website offers a number of other recorded talks on the Podcast page.

Read Laura Dixon’s blog on visiting the Science Museum and getting a sneak preview of The Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica.

The Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica

In advance of our forthcoming talk on this varied, quirky and fascinating collection, I met David Rooney, Curator of Transport at the Science Museum, at Blythe House in West London to find out more about this prolific collector, Winifred Penn-Gaskell and her collections.

One of many fascinating boxes from the Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica held at the Science Museum

Some of you may already know that Blythe House is the former home of the Post Office Savings Bank, a fact which made my visit that bit more exciting as I was familiar with it from several photographs but had never seen it in the flesh or been inside.

Evidence of the Post Office Savings Bank which used to by based at Blythe House

An imposing Edwardian building of mammoth proportions and a myriad size and shape rooms inside, it stores part of the Science Museum collection, including the Penn Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica.

Imposing Blythe House which houses a large part of the Science Museum's collections

The collection was gathered over several years from 1927 onwards by Winifred Penn-Gaskell, who wanted to ensure that the ephemera relating to the advent of air travel and aerial post were preserved as well as the actual crafts themselves.
The collection is hugely varied and includes pottery, books, pamphlets, stamp albums, snuff boxes, delftware, early microfilm, photographs and more – even buoyant sugar cubes, prisoner of war post and parts of a zeppelin shot down in 1916.

Some of the albums which form parts of the Penn-Gaskell Collection of Aeronautica

Winifred herself was a fascinating character – living alone 1000 feet up in the wilds of Dartmoor but also a globe trotter who travelled far and wide and was committed to chronicling the swift changes to air travel as they unfolded. Her collecting was all in the service of recording the heroic feats of the pioneer aviators for posterity.
David will be revealing much more about the collection and the collector next Thursday 10th May 2012 at 7pm at the Phoenix Centre, next to the Royal Mail Archive. Find out more information and book your ticket for his talk on our website.

– Laura Dixon, BPMA Learning Officer (Events & Outreach) –