I didn’t think that The Postal Museum would be for me, but in the interest of trying to see everything London has to offer, I went to ride the Mail Rail…
The Postal Museum opened near Farringdon in July of 2017, after growing from the The British Postal Museum & Archive which opened in 2004. BPMA/The Postal Museum have a rich history in collecting the heritage of the postal service and the social impact a successful postal service can have on a society. The records of the Royal Mail began as far back as the early 1800s, and The Postal Museum in its new iteration is the culmination of this extensive collection.
“We exist to showcase our stories and collections and reveal the fascinating story of Britain’s postal heritage in an engaging, interactive, educational and fun way” is The Postal Museum’s mission, and I had fairly low expectations of how “fun” postage could be interpreted. I went for the Mail Rail, purely out of curiosity, but what I found was exactly what was promised – a fun, engaging and educational museum.
As a social historian at heart, I was impressed by the extent of the social history on display. The Postal Museum is full of personal narratives and focussed almost entirely on how post affects people. Of course, the exhibition spotlights the curiosities of the ‘worlds oldest social network’ wth objects on display such as the Penny Blacks, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp.
However, for me, despite how impressive the main exhibition was, the Mail Rail was the main event. The Mail Rail runs through London’s 100-year-old underground postal railway. It is promoted as a ‘theatrical experience’, which is a good attempt to describe it. It is an immersive, visual and audio experience, telling a story of ‘the railway’s lively 1930s heyday’ through engaging voiceovers, cartoons, and actors.
The Postal Museum is well worth a visit to fully appreciate the significance of the mail services across Britain, and the essential social nature of mail before the internet.