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Working with Victorian Christmas Cards

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A new display opens on 17 November 2018 at the Royal Pavilion showcasing Victorian Christmas cards. In this post, Marcus Bagshaw talks about his work behind the scenes and the thrill of being given access to the Royal Pavilion & Museums’ extraordinary collections.

Victorian Christmas Card is a quirky display showcasing illustrations that are far from the traditional festive scenes we are familiar with today.

As someone who is interested in social history and the development of Christmas as a family celebration over the last 170 years, it has been really exciting for me to work on this new display as part of my time on our Arts Council England funded Workforce Development programme. It has enabled me to not only utilise existing knowledge, but it has also been a wonderful opportunity develop new skills as well!

It has also proved to be a tremendous learning curve. Not only do I now have a better understanding of the development of the Christmas card, I have now seen ‘behind the scenes’ of a new area of work, which has given me a real appreciation of all the different elements and people required in putting together displays and exhibitions.

The Workforce Development programme has given me the opportunity to work in areas of the Royal Pavilion & Museums that have always interested me but ordinarily would not have been part of my job description. It has been really rewarding to be able to diversify from my usual role as a Visitor Services Officer.

Following six weeks of activity involving research, cataloguing, digitisation and selecting and mounting objects, it was really satisfying to finally install the Victorian Christmas Card display. Doubly exciting, if a little nerve wracking, was installing the display while broadcasting to Facebook Live!

I have selected a further 25 cards to form an online advent calendar during December 2018 which will appear on Royal Pavilion & Museums’ Twitter. This too is pretty exciting as it enables me to share some of my other favourite cards that didn’t quite make it into the display. There has certainly been plenty to choose from: the collection numbers around 250 in total. Whittling this down to the nine on display and those in the advent calendar has been quite a challenge. So many are ornate, intriguing or simply bizarre!

Other examples of our strange, early Christmas cards from Victorian era can be viewed on our Digital Media Bank.

Marcus Bagshaw, Visitor Services Officer