Exploring The Past

Looking for something to do during lockdown? Explore the University’s rare and fascinating collections from home via a new online portal.

Anyone at home during lockdown can now explore ancient pottery and medieval literature, the work of literary icon – Samuel Beckett – and the history of rural England all in one place through Reading’s new online portal. The portal makes it not only easier than ever to discover the breadth of the University’s collections by bringing together fascinating content, but it also includes a suite of new websites for Special Collections and the Ure and Cole Museums.

Reading’s collections and museums usually welcome more than 50,000 visitors every year, and the materials support a vast number of researchers and students. The online portal will allow even more members of the public to engage with the items through online events, exhibitions and blogs. Guy Baxter, Assistant Director of Archive Services for the University Museums and Special Collections Service, said:

“Recent events have highlighted how important it is for researchers, students and the wider public to engage with museums and collections online. The wide variety of world-class research materials held at the University makes the clear presentation of what we have, and how people might access and use it particularly important.

“Our new portal does that, enabling us to uncover links between the millions of documents, books, objects and artworks that we care for, and telling the stories behind the collections.

“New online exhibitions will showcase the collections, alongside our existing blogs and social media channels. We hope that these new resources will also inspire people to get involved in our museums and collections, by visiting, studying, attending events or volunteering.”

Discover at home

The portal includes an A-Z list of the University’s collections, showcasing their themes and strengths and enabling users to explore them in different ways. Subjects include ancient history, farming, food and health, books, printing and publishing, natural history, childhood and the visual arts.

All the museums and collections support teaching and learning for all ages, from pre-school work and school visits, through to University teaching and support for doctoral students. They inspire a number of teaching and research projects across the University, including studies at The Samuel Beckett Research Centre. There is even a museum studies programme that involves Reading’s curators, and offers a unique opportunity for students to combine a heritage qualification with archaeology or classics.

So, if you’re looking to discover something new during lockdown, you can explore the portal here.