Technology is changing faster than ever. Archivist Helen looks at how we store and share our records now and then.

The Postal Museum’s team of dedicated archivists work hard to take care of records from the last 385 years (our earliest record is from 1636). We select, preserve, describe, and make these records publicly accessible.

Another important element of our work is collecting the records which are being created by Royal Mail and Post Office Limited today so that we will be able to make these available to future researchers. Since the 1980s many of these records have been in digital form, using various different media, and this presents challenges to how we process them.

Various media. How many do you recognise?

Our collection of newspaper cuttings provides an example of the changing formats of records over time. We collect the cuttings as they provide an insight into what the public (or at least the media) thought of the postal service. Gathered together in files they offer a more accessible research source than searching through numerous newspaper archives for references to the post. In the 1890s these took the form of large volumes with newspaper cuttings pasted into them.

Archivist Helen looking through a volume with newspaper cuttings

Volume with newspaper cuttings

In the 1990s the cuttings were photocopied, several to a page and then circulated around the organisation.

A4 printed sheet

Since 2013 we have received these as email attachments. The reasons for keeping them remain the same but we need to be more proactive with the attachments to avoid accidental loss or deletion.

Email attachment

The Postal Museum has made a start on collecting digital records and is beginning to understand the processes and actions required make sure these are cared for to the same standard as our physical collections. We are at an early stage of developing our workflows and there is a lot of work to do in the coming years, but we are committed to ensuring that there is something for the researchers of the future to consult.

One of our biggest challenges will be the rate at which the digital environment changes. I’m sure that as soon as we have an established workflow, new types of records will be created which will require us to rethink our approaches!

A group of visitors looking at close-ups of Victorian Stamps on the touch table

Touch Table at the Discovery Room

Book a visit to our Discovery Room to browse the records there or go digital with our online catalogue.

– Helen Dafter, Archivist

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