The GPO Museum – looking ahead

While our museum in the GPO must unfortunately close at the end of the month to make way for ongoing work on the new 1916 Witness History centre, the An Post Museum & Archive will, of course, continue its work to preserve items of postal historical interest and to promote a greater awareness of the important role played by the Post Office in the development of so many aspects of Irish life over the generations. I would certainly echo my colleague Saoirse’s sentiments in relation to our Letters, Lives & Liberty exhibition in the GPO museum. It has been fun to meet so many different types of visitors over the last few years – tourists and locals, school children and pensioners, architects, historians, philatelists, designers and fellow postal workers. In creating this museum, my aim was to open up the Irish postal world and use it to introduce some of the subjects – transport, printing, finance and design, as well as Irish administrative and political history – that have been connected with the Post Office over the centuries. It has been rewarding for us to hear from so many people who enter the museum expecting just to learn a bit  about stamps and leave it amazed at the impact the Post Office has had on Irish life. That has been the measure of the museum’s success over the last five years.

Postbox

The physical GPO museum will close on the 30th May 2015 but we shall continue to use our website and other channels to provide a virtual display of and information on some of the material that was there, adding new things from our archive collections from time to time. Keep your eyes open too for occasional talks or touring exhibitions or for items that we may display elsewhere – like this pillar box that we recently provided for the departures area of Dublin airport – an enduring and friendly symbol of Ireland for people leaving our shores.

Stephen Ferguson
Assistant Secretary & Museum Curator

GPO, Dublin

May Day

Today is the day we remember the place of work and working people in society. Postal staff throughout the world number hundreds of thousands of people with the Post Office remaining a big employer in many countries despite the technological changes of the last generation. An Post’s staff numbers about 10,000 people, each with a particular role – be it delivery, clerical, administrative or managerial – so that the services of the Post Office are brought as efficiently as possible to people at home and abroad. The card illustrated is an attractive and early union one issued by the Letter Carriers branch of the Dublin Postmen’s Federation and it symbolises union and friendship between staff throughout the land.

Dublin Postmans Federation

Easter Rising and the GPO

Easter was earlier this year than it was in 1916 and we have marked the occasion already but our picture shows the ruined GPO after the destruction caused by the Rising. The event brought out plenty of people to see what had happened at the Post Office that year and some of them will have wondered perhaps why the rebels chose the GPO as their headquarters. The building was in a central location of course and it commanded a strong position but it was the fact that it controlled communications, and particularly telegraph communications, that made it particularly attractive to the 1916 leaders. The story of how the building was occupied and the reaction and role of the postal staff who were on duty is not well known and it is a theme explored in the GPO Museum’s Letters Lives & Liberty exhibition which is due to close in the next few weeks. So drop into the GPO and get the background in time for next year’s centenary commemorations!

6 Days 1 - Copy

The Penny Black – 175 Years

This is a big year for stamp collectors as they mark 175 years since the world’s first adhesive postage stamp was introduced back in 1840. The little square of black paper with a finely engraved profile of the young Queen Victoria has become an item that many collectors want to have. It’s not that expensive a stamp – it’s significance lies more in being the “first” and in what it meant for people who wrote letters. At just a penny, it really opened up correspondence, news and education for people who were formerly excluded by the high cost of postage.

Penny Black

Penny Black

The stamps were used in Ireland, of course, since the Royal Mail covered both Britain and Ireland at that time and the interesting story of how one very early Penny Black came to be used on a  letter from Dublin to London in May 1840 is told in  a little booklet, which contains an exact replica of the letter and stamps, available from our philatelic department.

The 1840 Fitzpatrick letter

The Fitzpatrick – Thomas Letter of 1840

Valentines, love and all that…

Expressions and tokens of love take many different forms and while the tradition of sending special cards on Valentine’s Day to someone we love through the post is not as strong as it once was, the Post Office still expects additional volume around the 14th February. This special mug, for sale in the GPO Museum in Dublin, depicts a stamp which takes a creative slant on the nature of love. The designer focuses on the Red Setter rather than the pair of toe-touching lovers and, by declining to portray the human faces, our minds are cleverly turned to thinking of love in a new way.

Love Mug

Postal friendships

“I recently read Helene Hanff’s delightful,  84 Charing Cross Road, the story of the friendship that develops between Helene Hanff, an outgoing American literary woman and Frank Doel (married to an Irish wife Nora) employee and senior buyer at a traditional English bookshop on the Charing Cross road in London. The mood of a rather dreary and exhausted London, where rationing still prevails after the war, stands in marked contrast to the colour, energy and prosperity of New York. It’s a charming little tale of how letters and the  efficiency of the Post Office’s book-post service gradually manage to turn a routine business inquiry into friendships that last a lifetime.”

– Stephen Ferguson, Assistant Company Secretary

Book Cover

Recommended by Stephen Ferguson

Dramatic tales – The Last Post by Just the Lads Theatre Company

Irish theatre has long enjoyed a high reputation which was confirmed by something I saw a few weeks before Christmas. The Last Post is an innovative and engaging piece of drama which is centred on the people and activities of a fictional Returned Letters Branch of An Post. The directors, Liadain Kaminska and Darren Sinnott, and their team invite the audience into the lives of those who write and sort letters and in the process, make us think about the human need to communicate and connect with others as part of life. Using all the resources of the old fire brigade station in Rathmines as the stage , the audience is guided by the postal staff on an intimate and at times anarchic journey which culminates in a chance to sort letters in a way that would never be officially countenanced at An Post! It’s a creative and amusing piece of drama that deserves to be seen.

Stephen Ferguson – Curator, An Post Museum

Frank McGuinness

Thomas Street post office 1975

The local post office, a town sub-office like this one or more often a rural office, has long been part of the fabric of Irish life with people not only  using it to transact business but also as a place to met their friends and catch up on the news. Technological development over the last generation has brought huge change in the way people go about their business now and there has been an inevitable impact on post offices too. Photographs of local post offices form part of our archive here and I am always glad when people turn up old post office pictures and donate them to our collection. In this case, I am grateful to Mick Brown for letting me use this delightful photograph with what looks like an interesting conversation going on outside the office! You will find other great shots in his recent book on Dublin.

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Merry Christmas

This year we are not only celebrating Christmas but also two hundred years since the foundation stone of the GPO was laid in 1814. There will be free entry to the An Post Museum from the 8th December till Christmas Eve so do come and take a look at our exhibition, Letters, Lives & Liberty, and if you drop in at lunch-time, you’ll also be able to join in with the traditional carol singing in the Public Office.

Have a very Happy Christmas.

An Post Museum and the GPO are closed Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Keep an eye on this page and our social media channels to keep up to date with details for events at the An Post Museum – GPO Dublin.

Fighting infection – A century-old Post Office enamel notice

Infectious disease is something very much in the news at present and serves as a reminder of another ailment that was very much feared in Ireland and continues to be so in many parts of the world. Consumption, an older word for tuberculosis, spread rapidly in areas of overcrowding and poverty and was the cause of death for many thousands of people here. The establishment of national sanatoria, a better understanding of the disease and a more caring attitude towards those who suffered from it, in addition of course to antibiotic drugs, brought great improvements but vigilance remains necessary. The Post Office, as a place where people met and transacted business, provided a space where the Postmaster General could bring the disease to the attention of people and point out one very common form of transmitting it.

Consumption Notice