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

A Letter from the Ledge – Farewell and Thank you

Dear Customers,

As most of you may know by now the An Post Museum will be closing down on 29th May 2015.

For almost five years, I have welcomed thousands of visitors from all over Ireland and the world into An Post Museum.
It has been absolutely wonderful in getting to see and hear how many of you have enjoyed the experience.

I would like to extend a big “thank you” to all of you, our customers, who have kindly supported us here at An Post Museum by visiting, sharing your stories about you or your family members, who at one time worked for the Irish Post Office, for writing to us about the museum for articles and books etc, as well as Tweeting and Facebooking us.

For me, it has been an absolute pleasure getting to meet you and being given the chance to share with you Ireland’s wonderful and almost secretive history of Irish Communications Heritage. I hope that you will continue to take part in exploring Ireland’s communications history both past and present. Please make sure to tell others about your wonderful stories as it is important to remember who our ancestors in the Irish Post Office were and how their actions made a huge impact in shaping the wider world of communications.There is so much out there waiting to be rediscovered in every town and village in Ireland; from people’s own histories to old postboxes, stamp collections, old letters and more importantly you. It is through people efforts in finding out about their local history, writing it down, preserving what they find and talking about it, so that younger generations will learn and understand how we got here especially through tough times in our nations history.

I would also like to especially thank my colleagues for their wonderful enthusiasm and hard work in helping to make our Open Days, Heritage Week, Open House and Culture Night successful.

ThanksBest wishes and thanks again,

Saoirse Kennedy
Exhibition Officer
An Post Museum

“Dalek” letter box

Clothing for pillar boxes is  a novel idea!

dalek1

This photograph, kindly sent in to me, shows an ordinary green pillar box in Phibsborough in Dublin, kitted out in a knitted Dalek costume as part of the recent Phizfest festival. Street bollards received similar apparel and the whole effect certainly brought a new dimension to posting  a letter!

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

Anthony Trollope 1815-1882 – Happy Birthday 24th April

Trollope, remembered chiefly as a Victorian novelist, was also a highly respected civil servant and Irish Post Office official. An unsettled early life with family and financial difficulties led to the young Trollope seeking a job in the GPO in London.  Various warnings about his conduct and performance found his opting for a transfer to Ireland as a surveyor’s clerk rather than being dismissed. The move to Ireland in 1841 marked a turning point in his career. He arrived in Dublin to find his London boss had given him a very poor reference, saying “he was worthless, and must in all probability be dismissed” but that he would be “judged on his merits”.

 Trollope Stamp

Within a year he had redeemed his professional reputation, met the woman he would marry and found Ireland, which he came to know very well, much to his liking. He came to know Ireland very well indeed and would appear before a Parliamentary Committee as an expert on its postal affairs. The country and its Post Office, indeed,  gave him a discipline and focus which certainly helped to keep him on the straight and narrow and he repaid this with a sympathy and understanding of Ireland and its people which was somewhat unusual amongst establishment figures of the time. So here’s a toast to our former colleague from his latter day colleagues in the GPO!

Stephen Ferguson

Assistant Secretary

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

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.