The new museum will open in mid-2017, bringing five centuries of communications history to life. It will reveal the surprising and fascinating story of the first social network, and make its extraordinary collections available and enjoyable for all.
The Postal Museum is the public identity of the Postal Heritage Trust, a charity that took over the management of the heritage of what was then Royal Mail in 2004. While the postal service has been going for five centuries, it was not until the early 1800s that the first steps towards organizing and safeguarding its records were taken.
Sir Francis Freeling, Secretary to the Post Office, took the lead. He was a remarkably active character and by the time he died in 1836 some of the Post Office’s archives had been organized and bound together for the first time. In the 19th century the Post Office was a government department, and as such the first Public Records Acts passed from 1838 put its record-keeping on a more formal footing.By the 1890s there was a Record Room in the General Post Office HQ in St Martin’s Le Grand, Central London, where the archive of the institution could be studied. The museum’s origins date from the early 20th century, by which time objects, had begun to be gathered in the basements of the GPO headquarters – also home to famous GPO cats such as Tibs. Some objects were loaned from there to recognized museums. However it was not until the 1960s that the National Postal Museum was established and moved in to King Edward Building, another GPO building in the City of London by St Paul’s Cathedral.
The museum was opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 1969 – the same year that the Post Office became a government-owned corporation – and was founded on the donation of a remarkable collection of Victorian Philately, and a sum of money, by wealthy benefactor Reginald M Phillips. His collection is internationally renowned and was digitized and made available online in 2005. In the early 2000s it was recognized that the best future for the rich heritage of the postal service lay with transferring it to the control of an independent charity, and the Postal Heritage Trust was born in 2004. Since that date, their primary focus has been on building the new first class home. That home is now on its way, the collections will move there from Freeling House, and it will be opening as The Postal Museum and Mail Rail in mid-2017.
The Postal Museum holds an astonishing and varied collection of objects that reflect the development of postal history over the decades: Post boxes, uniforms, vehicles, cycles, weapons, medals, furniture.