Every Friday we’re inviting our experts and guests to share a letter to something they love linked to the post.

Great Train Robbery file (POST 120/100)

Dear Random File 

I am writing to you in case you’re feeling lonely what with The Postal Museum unfortunately being shut. That said, unlike many of us, you are used to your physical isolation, spending days, months, sometimes years in a sealed box accompanied only by those fellow files which might be sharing your home with you. On first appraisal you are very common looking; some sheets of paper inside a buff folder and if you are lucky an extra acid free paper protective housing. Sometimes you’re slim consisting of just a few pages but often you are bulky running to several sub-folders. There are thousands of files like you in the archive repository at The Postal Museum. 

So why am I writing to such a humble commonplace object? Well without wanting to sound too trite, it’s not how you look externally but it’s what’s inside you that counts! And in that respect you are unique my friendand it’s when you engage in some proper human interaction that you really start to come alive. Every so often a researcher makes a date with you and asks you out of your box to examine your pages and together you can create some wonderful new work by which of course I mean research inspired by original archive material! You have your moment in the spotlight and from there the chance to later hook up with many other people out there united in a shared interest. 

Most of the files in the Royal Mail Archive (10,000s of them) are registered files created from the late 18th to the start of the 21st century. Registry staff within the Post Office followed a practice of continuing to add physically to an existing minuted case all other material on that subject which came to hand and as a result, the minuted papers frequently consist of quite large bundles of files on a common subject spanning many years. 

So those of us who love files want to shout and tell the world about you. We do this via the online catalogue where you and your fellows are described, blogs where we write about your unique contents and sometimes we even photograph you and show you off to the world (if you follow the link at the bottom of this record you can see the whole of the Post Office Investigation Branch’s main investigation file into the Great Train Robbery which makes for a fascinating read and part of which features in our Crime and the Post exhibition). 

So although The Postal Museum is closed I’m still thinking about you and I’m really looking forward to when you and your many fans out there can be reunited in the Discovery Room. 

Gav McGuffie 

Senior Archivist 

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