Tag Archives: Twitter

June Evening Talk – Letter’s from a Long Road with Julian Sayarer

On 4 June record breaking cyclist Julian Sayarer will be joining us to talk about his remarkable journey that took him around the world with just his notebook and letters for company. Here he gives us a taste of what we can expect.

It would be hard to argue that my twenties were defined by riding bicycles and writing, with the two things eventually combining to form what probably became my preferred means of travelling the world.


Aged 20, I finished my final politics exam of a first year at Sussex University, rode to Portsmouth and there met a friend for the Channel ferry and then the ride to Lisbon. The next year I rode to Istanbul through Eastern Europe. The following year to Istanbul along the Adriatic and through the Balkans. The following year I rode home to London through the Ukraine, and the year after that – in 2009 – I rode 18,049 miles around world in 169 days, breaking a world record in protest of the means by which it had the previous year been set by an alpha-male in cahoots with big finance. I didn’t like the inaccessible and foreboding depiction of travelling the world by bicycle, and I felt that the ideal of cycling towards an empty horizon had always been an experience too special to sell to a bank for its marketing campaigns.


The slow pace of modern publishing bears a good deal of the responsibility for why I am talking about this experience in 2015 and a year after the release of Life Cycles. I always wanted this book to constitute snapshots of the world – its people and its politics – at the start of the twenty-first century, rather than be only an account of what it is to ride a bicycle a long way. As much as the waiting often felt far too long, I came to enjoy the reflection that the passing of time allows.

Words and writing have always been a good companion on the road, especially so in remote and foreign places. Surrealism can help make light of dehydration in a desert or sleep deprivation in a long night of riding. Amongst foreign languages, a written self can become conversation; the appearance of thoughts upon a page a frame of reference when otherwise alone. Some descents – of 30 effortless miles out of a mountain – I feel compelled to try and write and record, whilst others happen in moments that make all words feel cumbersome. When cycling around the world, I sent text messages to an obscure, new programme called Twitter, which in-turn displayed them on a website, and eventually went on to become quite successful.

Life Cycles cover 480

The bicycle remains altogether quite timeless in a changing world; the endeavours to chronicle those trips – in books, in letters, sometimes in tweets – is an ongoing journey mixed with challenges and rewards, always throwing new light on travel writing, letters, and forms of communication both obvious and hidden.

The event will take place on 4 June 19.00-20.00 at The Phoenix Centre, Phoenix Place, London, WC1X 0DL

To book tickets please visit www.lifecycles.eventbrite.co.uk or telephone 020 7239 2570.

You can buy Life Cycles online or in all good bookshops.


#MuseumWeek at the BPMA

Next week (23 – 29 March) we will be participating in #MuseumWeek on Twitter with over 1400 other museums and heritage sites from around the world. We have been working hard gathering stories, pictures and more to share with you! Here’s a sneak peak at what you can expect:


Monday – #secretsMW

We will be revealing objects that will appear in The Postal Museum and Mail Rail. Tune in to see if you can guess the object! You will also find out what goes on behind the scenes in our museum store, conservation studio and archive through pictures and stories from our staff.

Can you guess what this iconic object is?

Can you guess what this iconic object is?

Tuesday – #souvenirsMW

We will be sharing gifts from our shop, and of course pictures of staff with their favourite mug. We would love to see your BPMA souvenirs in use!

Wednesday – #architectureMR

Find out more about the history behind the building that will become The Postal Museum: Calthorpe House. We will also be sharing images and plans for post offices and sorting offices around the UK, including a pub or two. Share pictures of your local post office!

An early photo of Calthorpe House - the home of The Postal Museum

An early photo of Calthorpe House – the home of The Postal Museum

Thursday – #inspirationMW

Do you have a favourite letter? What is the most unusual or surprising thing you have received in the post? We want to hear your stories – they could end up in The Postal Museum!

Friday – #familyMW

We have been busy putting together a new family-friendly exhibition and activities at Islington Museum and will be live tweeting from venue.

Our new travelling exhibition debuting at Islington Museum!

Our new travelling exhibition debuting at Islington Museum!

Saturday – #favMW

It was no easy task, but our staff have come up with their favourite objects and stories from the collections. From a letter that took nearly 80 years to reach its destination to a prosthetic arm for sorting. Do you have a favourite story or object from a visit with us? We’d love to see it!

Sunday – #poseMW

We are suckers for a good #pillarboxselfie! We will be sharing staff selfies, send us yours using #pillarboxselfie.

Staff #pillarboxselfie with a Penfold on Ladbroke Grove. Share yours with us next week!

Staff #pillarboxselfie with a Penfold on Ladbroke Grove. Share yours with us next week!

Join us on Twitter next week for #museumweek along with museums and heritage sites from around the world!

#ExploreArchive: What to expect next week

This year we’re once again taking part in the Explore Your Archive campaign. From 10-15 November organisations across the UK are taking part in the campaign to celebrate the UK’s archives and heritage. Penny McMahon, Archives and Records Assistant, tells us a little about what you can expect.


All of the BPMA’s Explore Your Archive activity will take place via social media, so look out for #explorearchives on our Twitter and Facebook pages, and right here on our blog. Every member of the archive team has selected one of their favourite records from the collection. This includes original artwork, snippets about the Post Office using animals in its workforce and a first-hand account of the Great Train Robbery.

Here are some of the highlights:

On Monday 10 November, Director Adrian Steel will be taking over Twitter sharing what goes on behind the scenes in our archive and here at the BPMA.

On Thursday 13 November, Head of Cataloguing Gavin McGuffie will also be giving the public an opportunity to choose a box in the archive to investigate, in our ‘pick a shelf any shelf segment’. We will put up a list of shelf numbers alongside a photograph of the shelf and you can choose which box he’ll look at.

Lastly we have been hard at work in the kitchen recreating Trench Cake. Trench cake was devised as a way of sending a cake to loved ones on the Front that would travel and keep well, without using up too many precious rationed goods. I first learned of Trench Cake when a member of the Great British Bake Off production team asked us how much it would cost and how a cake would be packaged during the First World War.  We have baked several examples of the cakes, brought one in for staff at the BPMA, sent one to Scotland and one to France. Fingers crossed they arrive in one piece!  Look out for a follow up blog to see how we got on.

Do you want to have a go at trench cake? We’d love to see your attempts – tweet us your pictures and tell us how it tastes!

– Penny McMahon, Archives and Records Assistant

#AskaCurator: Day in the life of a BPMA Curator

This Wednesday Curator Joanna Espin will be available to answer any questions you might have on Twitter for #AskACurator day! In today’s blog, she gives us an idea about what it means to be a BPMA Curator.

The main purpose of my job is to prepare the museum collection to move to our new museum.

Opening a box

Opening a box

I arrive at about 8:30am and my first task is to check the work progress spreadsheet, which shows all of the shelves in the repository and is colour coded to mark which shelves are ready to move and which ones are yet to be completed.  We are 93% of the way through housing aisles B-F and need to be at 100% by the end of the year.

Aisle F

Aisle F

This is my first job as a Curator and it is a fantastic opportunity to handle and house an amazingly diverse collection. I have re-housed so many interesting objects, including original evidence from the Great Train Robbery. I follow a strict procedure for auditing the collection, re-housing objects and updating their location.

Before it has been prepared for the move.

Before it has been prepared for the move.

As I am still quite new to the role, a part of the day may be dedicated to training. I have recently received manual handling training, and can proudly say that I can move a telephone kiosk when called to do so!

I moved to my current role from the BPMA Philatelic team and I spend one day a week with the Philatelic department, assisting with preparations to move the stamp artwork collection to a new storage facility. Our next task is to tie approximately 600 boxes with pink archival tape, to ensure the security of the boxes during the move.

I finish work at about 5pm. At the weekend I go home to Yorkshire and spend some time in the countryside with my border terrier.

Chester outside of the BPMA

Chester outside of the BPMA

Have any questions for me or the rest of the curatorial team? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and we will answer you on Wednesday.

-Joanna Espin, Curator

Coming this Friday: #mattsfriday Twitter Takeover!

Matt presents the hashtag for the #mattsfriday Twitter Takeover.

Matt presents the hashtag for the #mattsfriday Twitter Takeover.

This Friday, 15 November, I’m taking over the British Postal Museum & Archive’s Twitter feed! If you’ve enjoyed any of my previous blog posts, now you’ve got a whole Friday to interact with an Archivist.

I shall be posting live tweets throughout the day, from approximately 07:45 to 17:00 GMT. Hopefully, it’ll give you a glimpse of all the different bits and pieces that form a typical Friday for a BPMA archivist. Although, as many archivists will tell you, one of the joys of the profession is that there’s no such thing as a “typical” day! I’ll also be posting photographs of what I’m getting up to behind the scenes. My fabulous flipchart may be getting involved too.

Follow our Twitter feed (@postalheritage) to catch my updates on Friday. I’ll be using the hashtag #mattsfriday for all my content.

But really, we’d love for you to join in on the day! Questions and comments are very welcome. Just tweet @postalheritage using the hashtag #mattsfriday and I’ll try to answer. Of course, the Archive is only one part of the BPMA’s work. I can’t advise on museum objects or philatelic issues, but if you’ve got questions about archives, or what archivists do, or perhaps even how to get into archives as a profession, please do send me a tweet!

This is a relatively new experiment by the BPMA in engaging with our online visitors around the world. Depending on how it goes, #mattsfriday might become a regular feature.

See you on Friday!
-Matt Tantony, Project Archivist (Cataloguing)

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.

Ask A Curator

On Wednesday three members of our Curatorial team will be taking over our Twitter account as part of Ask A Curator Day.

Our curators manage our existing collections and actively acquire new objects to add more detail to the story of the British postal service. The objects within our collection include letter boxes, stamps, postal vehicles, paintings, hand stamps, archive documents and much more.

The three curators tweeting will be:

11am-1pm – Sarah Jenkins, who works with our collections including the recently digitised lantern slides.

1-3pm – Chris Taft, our Senior Curator. He has recently been working on our Mail Rail project to preserve rolling stock from this fascinating underground railway.

3-5pm – Emma Harper, who is organising the curatorial aspects of our move to a new home at Calthorpe House, and has previously worked with the Wilkinson Collection of pillar box memorabilia.

Chris Taft poses with Mail Rail rolling stock recovered from the underground tunnels at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office in London.

Chris Taft poses with Mail Rail rolling stock recovered from the underground tunnels at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office in London.

If you have any questions for our curators tweet them on @postalheritage this Wednesday. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #AskACurator.

Telegraphs and mass communication

Barely a day goes by when we do not see more evidence of the way in which mass communications can quickly bring together a group of like-minded people for a common purpose. The Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, Movember and Talk Like a Pirate Day all have Facebook, Twitter and other communications networks to thank for their success.

Today’s episode of The Peoples Post explained how businesses and individuals in the Victorian era benefited from the telegraph. But the speed with which information could be distributed by this early form of mass communication may surprise you.

King Edward VII on 4d stamp, issued 1902.

King Edward VII on 4d stamp, issued 1902.

In early December 1871 The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) contracted typhoid whilst staying at Londesborough Lodge, Yorkshire, and there was considerable public concern about the heir apparent’s welfare. A friend of the Prince’s, Lord Chesterfield, who had also been staying at Londesborough Lodge, succumbed to the disease, and the Prince’s plight brought to mind Prince Albert, his father, who had died of typhoid a decade earlier.

The Privy Council asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to prepare prayers for the Prince’s recovery for distribution to churches and chapels throughout England and Wales. These were printed on Saturday 9th December, and the Post Office was asked to deliver them by the following morning. Unfortunately, this was not possible by “ordinary channels”.

Prayer for the recovery of The Prince of Wales (POST 30/213c)

Prayer for the recovery of The Prince of Wales (POST 30/213c)

It was only thanks to the quick action of the telegraph department that they were distributed in time.

… great credit is due to a gentleman of the name of Irvine of the telegraph department of the Post Office for his thoughtfulness in suggesting that the physical difficulties in the way of the distribution of the prayers in time for use on Sunday might be obviated by the use of the telegraph, and for the zeal and energy with which, after personal communications with this office twice during the evening of Saturday, he collected all the addresses of the Clergy, and aided in supplying them by telegraph with copies of the Prayers…
(POST 30/213c)

This example of speedy mass distribution of information was important for the Post Office, who had taken over the privately-owned telegraph network the year before. As we heard in today’s episode of The Peoples Post, nationalisation of this network was controversial and expensive, but this example and many others like it were a feather in the Post Office’s cap.

Indeed, this proof of concept laid the groundwork for future successes. Within 30 years messages were being transmitted over the Atlantic using wireless telegraphy, thanks not only to Marconi but also the Post Office. News of the sinking of the Titanic, for example, was spread quickly thanks to the wireless, saving many lives.

A telegram stating that the Titanic is “deeply grieved” (POST 29/1395)

A telegram stating that the Titanic is “deeply grieved” (POST 29/1395)

Herbert Samuel, the Postmaster General at the time of the Titanic disaster, said:

Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr Marconi…and his marvellous invention.

Later, wireless telegraphy was refined further enabling mass broadcasting, which has provided information, prompted mass action and allowed you to listen to The Peoples Post today.

– Alison Bean, Web Officer

For more on today’s episode of The Peoples Post see our webpage The Telegraph. Further images can be found on Flickr. Use the Twitter hashtag #PeoplesPost to comment on the show.

We want your views

Do you like what we’re doing on our website, online catalogue, podcast, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and this blog? Is there something you’d like us to do online in the future?

We’re conducting an online survey of our audiences which will help us improve our services. Those who complete the survey will go into the draw to win a voucher from Amazon worth £50.

Man writing at desk (POST 118/5388)

Man writing at desk (POST 118/5388)

Take the survey at www.postalheritage.org.uk/survey. The survey closes 19 September 2011.

House numbering: extended

Our most popular blog of recent times looked at when and how House numbering began in the UK. The post was inspired by one of our Twitter followers, and has been widely re-tweeted. Now here’s the follow-up, also inspired by a question via Twitter from @ZirinskyStamps who asked “So what happens when the street gets extended?” Archives Assistant Penny has an answer:

Postman delivering mail to front door of Holbeach House. (POST 118/1133)

Postman delivering mail to front door of Holbeach House. (POST 118/1133)

We don’t have a lot of information on this as numbering is decided by the local authority. A booklet titled ‘GPO Notes on Street Naming and Numbering of Premises’ January 1966 POST 17/159 states:

“The Post Office has no power to insist upon the use of house numbers and street names in postal addresses but once Local Authorities, in fulfilling their statutory authority, complete the task of naming of streets, numbering of premises and insisting upon the exhibition of numbers a great deal can be done by the Post Office in persuading users of the post to help.”

People can find information on street numbering in their local area from the local authority archive, a list of local authority archives can be found here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archon/.