by Alison Norris, 2010 Exhibition & Festival Officer
Last week I took the chance to visit some of our London 2010: Festival of Stamps partner exhibitions and displays. It was a chance to meet the different people involved, and see the many different stories that stamps can tell.
My first stop was Room 69a at the British Museum, to see Impressions of Africa: Money, Medals and Stamps.
The exhibition shows how money and stamps have been used as symbols of power, vision, freedom and pride in the fight for independence in Africa.
Although sophisticated systems using items such as salt, cloth and beads had existed for thousands of years, coins and stamps were produced in Africa by European colonial powers as a way of asserting their authority.
Following from that, many of the items on display (a number of which are on loan from the BPMA) show how African countries have since used imagery to construct their own national identities. Images of national heroes, industry and the peaceful coexistence of diverse groups have been used to evoke unity and strength.
My next visit was to the Women’s Library to see Fe:MAIL, Suffragettes and the Post.
This fascinating display examines how the suffragettes used the post to further their campaign for the vote, often going to extreme and violent lengths.
The postal service played a crucial role in the suffragette campaign as it was a tool for mass communication and propaganda. Postcards helped to make the public aware of the movement, and helped to bring pressure on Parliament through public opinion. The women used images on postcards to portray themselves as citizens who not only deserved the vote on moral and democratic grounds, but who would also use their vote carefully and objectively.
The stamp below is known as a Cinderella stamp. It has no postal validity, but was usually placed on an envelope alongside official stamps. This example was published for the 1915 woman’s suffrage amendment campaign in Washington.
My last visit of the day was to Twickenham World Rugby Museum to see the display of rugby related letters, postcards, telegrams and stamps from their collection.
The display offers an interesting glimpse into how both rugby and correspondence have changed through the years, and includes a telegram to the RFU President from his French counterpart congratulating him on England’s win in 1953.
The full programme of events for London 2010: Festival of Stamps can be found at http://www.london2010.org.uk/.