Teaching and learning using collections and archives

We use material from the collections extensively in our teaching. We believe in "hands on" learning, particularly when teaching the history of the subject. Students research artefacts in the collections, learning the value (and problems) of addressing physical evidence and the need for close description and analysis. 

Undergraduate dissertation research

We encourage our undergraduate students to use the collections and archives as a basis for their dissertation. Recent examples include:

Matt Standage, The Post Office corporate identity 1956-1980, 2014small post office

"The department collections proved invaluable to the research I conducted into Banks & Miles' identity for the Royal Mail during my final year dissertation. The material allowed me to gain an insight into the practices of the designers during the 1970s and construct the narrative leading up to the implementation of a new corporate identity scheme. In addition, I was able to use this material to clearly illustrate the key aspects of the topic within the final disssertation"

Bethan Prestwich, How have different cigarette brands responded to the introduction of health warnings and the restrictions of legislation in the UK, 2014

"Cigarette packaging and tobacco legislation is interesting as it is constantly changing. Cigarette packaging has developed so rapidly that its full history is covered in less than 200 years. This dramatic development was partly due to the legislation enforced upon the appearance of the packs. The University of Reading holds the Mike Bott Ephemera Collection of cigarette packaging, which ranges from early 1900's until 2014. This study tries to expose the information contained within the collection to provide a platform for further research, and ensure that the knowledge of this collection is not lost."

Exhibition curation and design

Students also use the collections as part of design practice, in particular in exhibition curation and design.

MA Book Design and exhibition project

Frans Masereel: The City

11th June - 3rd July 2014

 smallThe exhibition, curated and designed by Stephanie Jacobs, as part of her MA in Book Design, presented the work of the artist Frans Masereel (1889-1972), highlighting his graphic novel, The City. Although trained as a painter, Masereel also worked as a graphic artist and is now better known for his woodcuts. These are characterized by their expressionistic form and socio-political content. The City is a graphic (or wordless) novel with woodcuts by Frans Masereel. The book was originally published as Die Stadt in 1925, and later as La Ville.

The exhibition included prints from an smallincomplete copy of a 1928 edition of La Ville, which is part of the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. This copy of La Ville was probably acquired by Otto Neurath in the late 1920s or early 1930s for the Social and Economic Museum of Vienna. At the museum, Masereel's work and other wood- and linocut prints by Peter Alma, Gerd Arntz, George Grosz and Augustin Tschinkel were described as 'sociological graphics'. They formed part of a larger 'visual education' archive.

The exhibition also showed a number of other books by Masereel held in the University of Reading's Special Collections.


Aspen: The 1960s multi-format magazine

18 June - 2 July 2013 Aspen exhibition 2

Aspen, described in the 1960s as 'the first three-dimensional magazine', was produced in California and published in New York on an irregular schedule from 1965 to 1971. Many leading figures in contemporary North American and European art and cultural criticism were involved in its production as editors, designers or contributors and this, along with its unique format, has contributed to its art historical importance and continued relevance to contemporary art and design practices of today. Rather than bound printed pages, Aspen was issued in a customized box or folder containing a wide range of items including posters, postcards, tickets, booklets, reels of Super-8 movie film and 'flexi disc' phonographic recordings. These different published formats turned the magazine into a space where artists were able to move outside the gallery and engage with a broader social and political sphere. As the magazine's editor Phyllis Johnson put it: 'Aspen presents actual works of art! Exactly as the artist created them. In exactly the medium s/he created them for.' Few complete sets of Aspen remain and this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see items from across all ten issues as well as many important individual pieces which have acquired specific art historical and cultural significance.

Hosted by the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, this joint exhibition with the Department of Art has been curated and designed by MA Book Designer Lisa Stephanides. The exhibition is supported by the Arts Committee at the University of Reading. We would like to extend our thanks to Professor Alun Rowlands from the University of Reading's Department of Art for his generosity and support in the loan of this collection.

 Part 3 ephemera studies module

In their final year, undergraduate students who have elected to take the Ephemera Studies module are given the opportunity to work with the Maurice Rickards collection to create a display on the topic of their choice. Previous topics have included Christmas crackers, First Great Western railway and funeralia.

We also use the collections in workshops and summer schools aimed at museum and library professionals, and design practitioners.

In April we held a Print Identification course, where we used the collection to showcase different printing processes.

The Centre for Ephemera Studies also runs courses on a number of topics.

Things to do now

Collections-based research

Access to the collections and archive is by appointment, and requests should be made to Laura Weill, l.weill@reading.ac.uk

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