As we have now finally settled in our new museum home, our Curator Joanna looks back and explains what it took to move our precious paintings collection.

La Belle Sauvage Inn, Ludgate Hill, London c.1885 (2004-0148)

The Postal Museum looks after a collection of almost 100 paintings, covering a variety of postal topics including prominent Post Office individuals and unnamed workers, transport, landmarks and the excitement of receiving a letter. The collection dates from the early 18th century to modern day, so there are a variety of styles and techniques represented.

As we finally finished the move of the Museum and Archive Collections to their new home, I’ll look back and share how we prepared the paintings to move.

Oil on canvas painting ‘Smouldering Mail Bags at Mount Pleasant’ by L. Francis Nichols. 1943 (2004-0105)

Night scene outside a sorting office by Edgar Ainsworth, 1935 (POST 109/507)

Initial Preparation

We started planning the move of the paintings collection over two years ago, by weighing each painting and checking its condition. This was a time-consuming but necessary job, taking a team of three members. It took two days to complete the initial preparations.

Preparations for Paintings Collection Move

Preparations for Paintings Collection Move

Conservation of paintings going on display

We are excited that several of our paintings are on display at The Postal Museum, and in 2015 we commenced conservation treatment in preparation for their display. They required a variety of works including cleaning and, in one case, the construction of a new conservation standard frame.

Mapping Preparation

The new storage space is not identical, so we have mapped our collection onto the new racking to identify exactly where each painting can best hang. One of our volunteers checked the height, width and depth of each painting in the collection and made scale cutouts of each painting on graph paper.

The cutouts show the name and object number of the painting and include a small image to assist identification. It can be easy to make mistakes in identifying paintings as many have very similar titles; for example, we have a painting entitled ‘The Country Letter Carrier’ and the almost identically named ‘A Country Letter Carrier’, so unique reference numbers are given to each object.

Our volunteer then used the new repository designs to create scale templates of the new storage.

The Country Letter Carrier, Artist Unknown, 1859 (OB1997.8)

A Country Letter Carrier, 1856-1860 (2004-0144)


The next task was similar to a puzzle: placing each painting cut out onto the racking template, following a set of guidelines informing how each painting should be housed. As the racking has only been installed recently, there will be further work to do in the coming weeks to check that our plans make sense in the real world.

Paintings Mapping

Explore Our Collection

Come and see some of our paintings for yourself in the museum galleries. You can also explore more about our paintings collection through our online catalogue and at the new Discovery Room.

– Joanna Espin, Curator