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#UoRWay: Keeping archives and collections available

Special Collections Team

In our series of stories on working under lockdown, colleagues from the Special Collections team describe how they have managed to keep our archives available for teaching and research.

A year has now passed since the UK went into the first lockdown in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of us have had to make changes to the way we work and live, both on and off campus. In this series, colleagues from across the University share their stories of working under lockdown over the past 12 months.

The wider team at Special Collections have been hard at work providing collections access for teaching, using innovative virtual adaptations along the way. 

Claire Clough (UMASCS Librarian): Launching a new co-taught module, 'Shelf Life', with English Literature this year has been an exciting and rewarding opportunity for us to design new collections-led sessions for students. Adapting to blended learning has been an extra challenge! We have delivered a combination of hands-on, face-to-face sessions, alongside screencasts, online teaching, and making use of our new Virtual Reading Room.

Caroline Gould (Principal Archivist): It's been a rewarding year: supporting History placement students, grateful that each week we still have access to collections; co-teaching on 'Shelf Life' with English Literature, adapting to blended learning; Collections lead on Museum studies Student Exhibition module, hopefully the students will be able to install a physical exhibition at some point!

Guy Baxter (Associate Director, Head of Archive Services): In October, UoR School of Art (@UniRdg_Art) asked if we could support teaching on 'hidden histories'. Even with social distancing, we were able to show students this painting in the MERL galleries and we had a fascinating discussion in the garden afterwards.

Ollie Douglas (Curator of The MERL Collections): The Going Public sessions involved a presentation about decolonising The MERL and then working with two groups to select archive items to create two online exhibitions related to colonial histories. I also did a session for agriculture students involving a livestream tour of the gallery and some virtual object handling.

Rhi Smith (Director of UMASCS Academic Learning and Engagement): I've been teaching Museum Studies from home so I've had to be inventive e.g. teaching object analysis with my epic mug collection. Thursday 25 February markedf the first day broadcasting live to students from the museum stores armed with a selfie stick, mask, and epic new Museum of English Rural Life t-shirt.


Would you like to share your story?

If you’d like to share your own story, please contact

You can also share your thoughts on our Padlet board – say a few words to describe your lockdown experience and read reflections from our staff and student communities. 

If you have been affected by the past year, talk to a friend or take a look at the Student Wellbeing or Staff Wellbeing resources available to you. It’s a difficult time and its important to know there is support to help you get through it.

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