Resources You Can Use from Home 4: Archives, Libraries, and Other Useful Websites.

This blog post was compiled and researched by Antonia Love, Graduate Trainee Archives Assistant, and written by Ted Simonds, Graduate Trainee Library Assistant.

University of Reading Special Collections

An OPAC is an online public access catalogue. Ours is called Enterprise and you can search it here. This searches across all the objects in the Museum of English Rural Life, the archives of the MERL, the archives of the University of Reading Special Collections, and the libraries of both the MERL and the Special Collections.

It will only search for items that have been catalogued, and some collections have been catalogued to different levels. When an archive has been catalogued to a “Fonds level description” there will only be an overall description of the collection. “Series level descriptions” will describe the collection down to a finer grain of detail such as “correspondence” or “photographs”. File and Item level description means that the collection is catalogued down to the individual file, or the individual items in those files.

Some collections have not been catalogued or are in the process of being catalogued. For these, it is worth looking on the Collections A-Z pages for both the Museum of English Rural Life and the University of Reading Special Collections. Or, if you want to find out about holdings in other collections within the University, you can search the A-Z page for all the collections in the museums (and other repositories) of the University of Reading.

Enterprise searches across all collections, books, archives, and museum objects, but you can limit your search to find the material most relevant to you. Enterprise uses fuzzy logic which works around misspellings and similar words. It is also worth searching for your terms in “double quotation marks” for more accurate results for complex searches. Limiting your results by the kinds of material you are looking for, such as archive, book, object, etc. as well as by date, language, and collection, can help you find what you are looking for more effectively.

You can also search for books in the MERL and Special Collections libraries through Enterprise. There is also another system called Unicorn, which is a version of the searchable library catalogue that has since been superseded by Enterprise. Unicorn is still used to request closed access books, inter-library loans, and booking short loan items. It is a useful tool to browse books rather than search. Our books are mostly closed access, meaning you can’t go and peruse our actual shelves, but Unicorn allows you to virtually browse the stacks. When you find an item on Unicorn, you can press “Nearby Items on Shelf”, as well as “Find more items on these topics” which will show you items classified adjacently and items that have the same subject headings.

If you are a University of Reading student, you have access to databases and resources though the University Library. This is touched upon in our previous blog post, but a comprehensive list of the databases you can access is located here. Through the sidebar you can also search through these by subject, as well as find other e-books, e-journals, and video, image and sound resources.

Other kinds of resources

Films/Television/ Visual Medias

For research on more recent history, as well as research on the history of film, television and visual medias, there are a number of places to look.

The British Film Institute has a collection of free shorts and features stretching over 120 years of Britain on film, accessible through their BFI player. As well as this collection of moving pictures, they also have a library, the BFI Reuben Library, located on London’s Southbank that has a searchable database of their collections.

The Department of Film, Theatre & Television at the University of Reading has a website where you can find all of their past and ongoing projects. From the Centre for Film Aesthetics and Cultures, the Beckett International Foundation, the Harold Pinter Project and IntermIdia, you can find out more about their research here.

Box of Broadcasts is a collection of TV and radio programmes from free-to-air channels. You will need an institutional login as well as having to register on the website in order to access the programmes already recorded and to request any new programmes.

LGBT Studies in Video is a survey of LGBT lives on film. It includes films, interviews, and shorts from across cultures and identities. There are nearly 400 films and clips on this ProQuest owned service. You will need to have an institutional login to access this resource.

Biographical Information

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is available to search online through your institutional access. It covers over 60,000 biographies and is adding new ones all the time. You can search by name or by key words. They also have a podcast and frequently post content on their twitter page.

American National Biography Online features over 19,000 biographies of diverse significant, influential, or notorious persons from American history. It is also only accessible to those with institutional access.

Who’s Who 2020 and Who Was Who is an online database of over 34,000 autobiographical entries of noteworthy and influential people who impact British life, and over 94,000 entries for deceased people. You will need institutional access or subscribe independently to access this resource.

General Searching & Academic Articles 

Cambridge Core is an online home for the academic content of the Cambridge University Press. It also encompasses Cambridge Companions, Cambridge Histories Online, and the Shakespeare Survey. This resource requires institutional access.

Oxford Handbooks Online is a collection of review essays covering key issues. The content includes chapters from the “Oxford Handbook” series. There is more information about this resource here. You can browse by subject as well as searching by title, author or keyword. This resource requires institutional access.

Oxford Scholarship Online offers online access to thousands of academic works from the Oxford University Press. You can search for just Oxford Scholarship Online content or across all partner presses. You can search by author, keyword, or title. This resource requires institutional access.

CentAUR: Central Archive at the University of Reading is the University of Reading’s institutional repository for research publications and research outputs. You can browse the outputs by year, author and division as well as conducting simple and advanced searches. Most universities have their own repositories, and researchers often deposit a version of their articles and papers with their institution. If you are unable to access an academic article, find out if the author is attached to a university and contact the relevant institution to see if they hold a version of the work you need.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is an online dictionary not only providing you with up to date definitions and etymologies, but also historic, obsolete and multiple definitions for words. You can search by word, and then search browse by words that appear next to it in the dictionary as well as clicking through etymological links to find roots and etymons. This does need institutional access.

Wiktionary is a free dictionary  resource which is good for searching definitions and etymologies. You can search by word and trace them back through etymology and find derivations. It is free to use and user-created, so it is not comprehensive.

JSTOR is short for Journal Storage. The web database provides access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, books, and primary sources across 75 disciplines. You normally need institutional access to access the full articles on JSTOR but because of the current lockdown they have extended their free online reading programme until the end of 2020. You can now read 100 articles for free each month if you register for an account.

Visiting Museums & Art Collections Remotely

Google Art and Culture hosts high definition versions of artworks, as well as street view images and 360-degree videos of the insides of famous sites and landmarks. You can browse by artists, mediums, movements, historical figures, and by historic events. The content comes from a range of different institutions across the world and the clean interface is easy to navigate and explore.

This post by Atlas Obscura brings together summaries and recommendations to a whole range of museums across the world. There is another similar page that brings together links to museums and galleries that have some form of online access to their collections.

Europeana is an online resource providing access to millions of books, music, artworks and more from all over Europe. You can explore the collections by theme, topics, special exhibitions, galleries and specially curated blog posts. You can also search by a range of different fields and limit your searches by collection, type of media, image use, country and others.

Other ways to learn

The University of Reading Lectures website lists the wide range of lectures available on the SACLL (Self-access centre for Language Learning) website. These cover popular and introductory lectures on a wide variety of topics and from a range of disciplines.

Open Culture pulls together over 1,500 free online courses from universities and institutions all over the world. Their listing is arranged by subject.

With limits on what kind of events can take place, lots of institutions are hosting events online. There are book talks, careers events, lectures, seminars, live comedy, music, and other performance online. If you are new to using a computer, or using the internet, there is a helpful guide from the BBC which should get you going. Social media is a great place to find out about online events from people and institutions you care about. If you aren’t on social media and don’t want to be, you can go directly to institutions websites to find out about what they are up to!


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