#StillSpecial: Virtual Reading Room launch

Come on in! We are delighted to announce the launch of our Virtual Reading Room. When COVID-19 put a temporary halt to on-site access to collections, we started putting in place new services to enable access remotely.

The VRR allows exploration of high-quality digital versions of books and documents by registered users, as well as providing galleries of collection images for all to explore. Highlights include thousands of images featured in the Museum of English Rural Life galleries, as well as content from selected rare books and archives in the Special Collections. In the future we will be adding even more content such as motion picture film.

Formal dress is not required in the Virtual Reading Room! (Victorian music sheet cover “I’ll strike you with a feather” sung by G.H. McDermott. From the Spellman Collection)

Ways to explore

There are 4 ways to explore our content:

  • if you know the reference number or title you can search – though please remember that this is not our full catalogue (which you can search here)
  • if you know which part of the collection you are interested in (e.g. Mills and Boon book covers in the Special Collections Library) you can browse by collection
  • if you want to explore content relating to each of the MERL Galleries there is a wealth of supporting items, organised to reflect the physical layout
  • if you are just looking to get some idea of the subjects that we cover, you can browse by theme.

You can learn more about the Virtual Reading Room here and link to it here

Wherever you do your reading, you can use the Virtual Reading Room! (The Reader’s House, Ludlow c1950s, from the JDU Ward Collection at The MERL)

Going a little bit further

Seen all you want in the accessible galleries? Want to explore content at high resolution? Time to take the plunge and register, which is free of charge and open to all. Registering for the VRR also registers you for the physical reading room (you’ll need to show ID on your first actual visit). It may take a few days to confirm your registration – the process is conducted via email and staff are always happy to answer questions. Once you are up and running you can set a password and off you go!

Start the process by filling in the form on this page, which also has a list of FAQs.

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