Special Collections Services

Special Collections Service reading roomSpecial Collections Services give access to the University of Reading's collections of rare books, archives and manuscripts, and The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) library and archives.

The archive and library collections are located in the same building as The Museum of English Rural Life on Redlands Road adjacent to the London Road Campus of the University. They can be consulted in the Reading Room.

*In light of the latest government advice regarding the developing COVID-19 situation, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all events and external visits due to take place at The MERL and University of Reading Special Collections until the end of April. The reading room will be closed from 5pm on Friday 20th March until further notice. We understand that this news will be disappointing. We would like to reassure you that it is not a decision we have taken lightly. We will review our plans beyond April in due course. We cannot take reading room bookings until we have reopened. We understand that this news will be disappointing. We would like to reassure you that it is not a decision we have taken lightly and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.*

This video provides a brief introduction to using the reading room.

The Special Collections Services and the Museum are housed in a Grade II listed building, which was originally known as East Thorpe, the home of Sir Alfred Palmer of the Huntley and Palmers biscuit company.

East Thorpe was designed and built by the architect Alfred Waterhouse between 1880–1882. This building was later acquired by the University, and was extended to form St. Andrews Hall, a University hall of residence. The hall closed in 2001.

This online exhibition provides more information about the history of the building.

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