Our Assistant Curator Jess gives us a glimpse of the wonderful new additions to our collection. Many of these have been kindly donated by members of the public.
What is the most exciting part of your job? For me, as an Assistant Curator of the Museum Collection, it is easily answered: New Acquisitions! They are continually varied and there is nothing more exciting than receiving an email, answering a call or even opening a mystery box to discover potential new additions to the Collection.
‘British postal services helped to shape the modern world. The Postal Museum works to connect people through this human story of communication, industry and innovation by making it accessible to all.’
The Postal Museum’s Collections Development Policy
The objects in the Museum Collection range from paper-based two-dimensional items such as song sheets, greetings cards, postcards, and personal ephemeral; to three-dimensional operational equipment and tools such as handstamps, sorting machinery and furniture; to large artefacts such as horse-drawn or motorised vehicles and train carriages.
The collection includes not only the possibly expected, such as sheets of Penny Blacks and post boxes, but also paintings by acclaimed artists, a Victoria Cross awarded to a postal worker in the First World War, flintlock weapons and an important collection of postal markings spanning more than 400 years.
The decision whether to acquire material for the collection, and accept offered objects or not, is made by the Curatorial Team, headed by the Senior Curator. New Acquisitions come to us in a variety of ways; here are a few examples of our most recent pieces:
In 2016 Jacqui McLennan emailed the Curatorial Department, offering to donate her collection of Mail Art: 65 envelopes decorated by artists, designers and friends. She also donated love letters sent from her father, Ian McLennan to her mother during the Second World War and most recently a further 44 pieces of Mail Art. These were fantastic additions to our Collection, showcasing the creativity that can be found in postal communication.
It inspired our own Curator, Joanna Espin, to decorate an envelope for a New Year’s card to Jacqui, which Jacqui, in turn, offered to donate to The Postal Museum.
Some of the objects we receive require further in-depth review and research before they can be accessioned into the Collection. For instance, these Model Vehicles were collected by Kenneth Pollicott while working as a Sub-Postmaster and during his retirement. They were offered to the museum by his son Mark Pollicott.
This large donation is in excellent condition, however, it created the need for an in-depth review of other models we have in the Collection; comparing them and looking for duplications. Following such necessary review, we do, on occasion, have to turn down some offers of donation on grounds such as – duplication, condition or not fitting our specific collection remit.
The Royal Mail and Post Office also donate many items to the Collection. This sign was donated by the Golders Green Post Office when it closed. It is housed at our offsite Large Object Museum Store and lists the names of winners of local championship games from 1977 to 1991. This was a great addition to the Collection as it records the social aspect of working in a Post Office and the games played by postal workers.
Other recent New Acquisitions have been Royal Mail’s Pride in London 2016 postcards, pin badge and card which feature a rainbow coloured pillar box placed in various locations around London. The rainbow pillar box continues to tour the UK and has in fact been photographed amongst our pillar box collection.
Not all objects are acquired through donations. Some are purchased, such as this bookmark advertising Stephens’ Fountain Pen Ink. Purchased from a dealer in ephemera, this bookmark is illustrated with the colourful figure of a Postman delivering the mail. The bookmark demonstrates the influence of the post in popular culture and how postal imagery has been used in a variety of mediums not always directly related to the post. Stephens was also a major supplier of ink to the Post Office; used on handstamps, for stamp cancelling and general office work.
Finally, transfers between the various departments at The Postal Museum are a way in which we acquire new items. For example, the Philatelic Collection recently transferred a selection of Christmas Cards sent to them over the years, and the Archive transferred a group of Postal Orders and Postman Pat books and magazines. These transfers occur when the objects do not fit in with their Collection Policies but match our own.
We also on occasion accept transfers of objects from other heritage collections. There is currently no access to the collections as much of it has been packed for its forthcoming move to new storage facilities. However, many objects from the Museum Collection will be on display in our exciting new Postal Museum opening 28 July!
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– Jessica Woolf, Assistant Curator