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Friday 30 August 2019

Ambitious about The Postal Museum

When I was a kid, I watched Postman Pat very often. 

The red van that the titular character drove around in, and his black and white cat called Jess were a fixture in my childhood. Something about it fascinated my four-year-old self and I once had the idea that I would like to become a postal worker. Alas, things don’t turn out the way we want to sometimes. But for people fascinated by the postal system, The Postal Museum, near Gray’s Inn Road, is a brilliant place to visit. 

The museum has been working with Ambitious about Autism for just under a year to create a brand new neurodiverse experience for people who may need a quieter environment to explore the museum. I went along to their first ever ‘Post Early’ openings and this is what I found out.

The museum worked with members of our Youth Council and participation team to create a range of resources for autistic visitors that ensure they can have a great experience when they visit. 

The Postal Museum Early Post event

One such resource is a ‘sensory satchel’ which contains a fidget toy, ear defenders, a squishy post-box, a spikey ball, magnifying glass and a toy camera that made noise, along with a pen and museum trail. These items were personally picked by the Youth Council to offer extra support to autistic visitors and the toys picked were themed around the museum, including the camera and a post-box squishy! The children and young people who attended enjoyed doing the puzzles that were included in the satchel.

The Post Early opening also provided a quieter environment with communication cards on hand and dimmed noise and lights so to make neurodiverse visitors feel more comfortable.

The museum consists of two buildings, The Postal Museum building which houses the exhibitions and the Royal Mail archives, and the Rail Mail building which houses the Mail Rail ride (more on that later!) and Sorted! The Postal Play Space.

The main exhibition is very interactive and explains the history of the Royal Mail and the Post Office in the UK. You can design your own stamp, try on historic uniforms and even send letters through a pneumatic tubing system. 

The Postal Museum early post

We then moved into the Mail Rail building across the road which housed the main attraction, the Mail Rail ride. The train itself is a bit of a tight squeeze for an adult – but children were able to get in with no problems! The ear defenders came in very handy as the train was very loud (and smelt pretty damp!).  The ride lasted about 15 minutes and was narrated by a former engineer of the underground post transport system. It was a pretty good and informative ride. After the ride was over we went to the interactive stations around the Mail Rail Depot.

Overall, the first Post Early session was a great success. Hannah Smith from The Postal Museum said:

All staff involved in Post Early at The Postal Museum were thrilled with how it went – there was a real excitement around the organisation and it was a great opportunity for teams to work together on a really valuable event. We developed the programme in collaboration with Ambitious about Autism to ensure it met the wants, needs and expectations of the target audience. We thoroughly enjoyed the process and the positive feedback gained from attendees at the event would suggest we met this aim.

Visitors also had a lot of praise for the Post Early event. One parent who attended said:

This is the best relaxed event we have every attended. Super resource bags. Amazing thought has gone into everything. Staff were so patient, and it was an amazing opportunity to participate. Event staff were extremely welcoming and put me at ease from the moment we arrived. We loved the train and the ‘Sorted!’ interactive exhibition. Really appreciate these events so my son can take his time and enjoy.

The Postal Museum will be running more Post Early events in the future - upcoming dates are Monday 21st October and Saturday 14th December. Each event is themed with all-age craft activities, access to Sorted!, Rail Mail access included in ticket prices, a dedicated quiet room, a visual story to help prepare for your visit and is open to all ages. All that for £1 per person.

Please check The Postal Museum website for more details.


About the author
Solmaz is Ambitious about Autism's Marketing and Communications Intern. She loves writing, and also has interests in music, technology and beauty products.