Collections-Based PhD Workshop: Navigating Collections

A Collections-Based PhD Workshop: Navigating Collections is taking place Wed, 25 Oct 2023 11:00 – 16:00 at the Museum of English Rural Life and Special Collections Service at 6 Redlands Road Reading RG1 5EX.

This session is part of an annual programme aimed at doctoral researchers working with collections. These workshops allow you to pick up key skills and explore ideas with other PhD researchers and professionals. The workshops are embedded in the University of Reading’s archives, rare books, art, and museum collections using them as a way of exploring wider practices and issues. You will be exploring alongside professionals, other PhD students and academic researchers either online or in working collections spaces.

Collections-Based PhD Workshop: Navigating Collections

In this workshop you will explore the concepts and systems which underpin museum, archive and library cataloguing, classification and data management. In basic terms this will help you navigate and search for data more effectively and efficiently. However, this will also help you reflect upon how these structures and systems highlight and obscure certain stories.

This can be taken as a standalone workshop but please note that some topics will be covered in more depth in other workshops in the series.

Any PhD Researchers are very welcome and can book via Eventbrite. University of Reading students need to book via the Graduate School in order for this count towards the RRDP.


Tips for navigating collections as part of your PhD research:

  • Get to know your university library – Meet with subject librarians to understand the resources and databases available. Many special collections may be hidden gems.
  • Search national databases – Scour databases like COPAC for relevant rare books, manuscripts, and archives held by libraries across the country.
  • Look beyond academic libraries – Historical societies, private collections, and museums can also hold valuable primary sources.
  • Join academic associations – Groups like scholarly societies often provide access to archival material and special collections.
  • Investigate digital collections – More rare resources are being digitized for remote access. But still visit in person when possible.
  • Contact collection curators – Build relationships with curators and archivists to gain insights on collections and access.
  • Plan research trips – Travel to access one-of-a-kind material not available digitally if needed for your research.
  • Apply for access early – For restricted collections, file access requests well in advance to avoid delays.
  • Handle sources carefully – Follow archival procedures for safe handling of fragile and rare materials.
  • Take comprehensive notes – Document sources meticulously so you can easily reference. Photograph if permitted.

Tapping into special collections can unlock invaluable primary sources for your PhD research. With thorough planning and an investigative mindset, you can uncover hidden gems.

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