Meet Jane and learn about what her typical day is like as Assistant Curator.

How I joined the museum

I joined The Postal Museum two months ago as an Assistant Curator. I previously worked with digital collections at the Royal Air Force Museum, volunteered at the National Maritime Museum and completed an MA in History of Art.

I love the paintings and photographs here at the museum and enjoy working with so many interesting objects.

‘London to Glasgow Royal Mail on the Open Road’, in the style of Edwin Cooper (OB1996.595)

My role

I arrive at the museum at 08.30 and check my schedule for the day. The main purpose of my job is to catalogue and house new objects that have been acquired or donated to the museum.

One of my first tasks is to figure out which objects I’ll be working with and collect these from storage. Everything that enters the collection is documented in our database. Where the object came from, what it looks like and information about its history is all recorded. This means we have everything to hand for future research.

It’s been a great opportunity to learn about our fascinating new acquisitions.

Working with new acquisitions

My favourites

I’ve worked with lots of exciting objects so far. These include a soldier’s identity disc from the First World War, photography albums, investigative diaries and a postman’s jacket.

My favourite has been a set of 19th-century letters. These were sent by a worker onboard a Royal Mail steamship to his sister in London. The letters date from 1848 to 1854, when the writer travelled between Portsmouth, the West Indies and New York. It was interesting to gain a glimpse of life onboard. He describes the conditions as ‘enough to try the constitution of Nelson’s Statue’.

Envelope holding letter sent from Royal Mail steamship (2019-0043)

I transcribed the letters as part of the process. The handwriting was a bit of a challenge to read, especially as some of the text was cross-written. This is where the writing crosses over in another direction, to save paper and money on postage.

I gave each letter a unique number so that they can be easily identified. I placed them in archival sleeves and housed them in the museum’s repository.

Cross-written letter from 1848 (2019-0043)

The most random object I’ve catalogued has been a paperweight belonging to a Post Office employee. It commemorates the closure of the Post Office Investigation Department and is one of several paperweights in the collection.

Installing new objects

Last week I helped to install some new uniforms in the gallery, as part of a yearly rotation of objects. We regularly refresh the fragile objects on display to prevent them from deteriorating.

Together with the conservation team, we replaced a messenger’s skirt and jacket with a telegraph woman’s overcoat and a straw hat.

You can see these on display in the museum now. The previous uniforms have gone back into storage where they are protected from environmental conditions.

Installing telegraph woman’s overcoat (2010-0527)

Museum Object Store

Another nice part of my role is to work at the museum’s object store in Essex. This is where many of the larger items are kept, including vehicles, furniture and post boxes.

I help to monitor the environment in the store so that the objects stay in good condition. I dust the vehicles and pack items that need to be transported to the museum.

The Postal Museum Store at Debden, near Loughton, Essex. The line of pillar boxes show the development of post boxes from the earliest trials on the Channel Islands in 1852-3 to the modern day.

Museum Object Store in Debden, Essex

It’s been great to work with such a variety of different objects.

– Jane King, Assistant Curator