The Wokingham Paper

University launches new portal to explore museum collections from home

A NEW museum portal is making it easier to explore history at home.

From ancient pottery and medieval literature, to the work of Samuel Beckett and the history of rural England all in one place, the University of Reading’s new online Museums and Collections portal is available to view on the computer. 

It includes a suite of new websites for the Special Collections and the Ure and Cole Museums.

Each year, more than 50,000 people visit the University’s collections and museums 

Now, the online portal allows even more members of the public to engage with the items through online events, exhibitions and blogs, and to make the most of their visits after the lockdown.

The work of Samuel Beckett is included in the collection. Picture: University of Reading

Guy Baxter, assistant director of archive services for UMSCS, 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 will do 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.”

The new portal includes an A-Z list of the University’s collections, and showcases their themes and strengths, enabling users to explore in ways that suit them. 

Subjects range from ancient history to farming, food and health; from books, printing and publishing to natural history; and from childhood to the visual arts.

The collections have informed a number of teaching and research projects at the University. Examples include Samuel Beckett’s manuscripts inspiring new work through the Samuel Beckett Centre at the University, while archived materials belonging to Nancy Astor – Britain’s first female MP to sit in Parliament – were an integral part of national centenary commemorations.

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