Reading Museum Town Hall

Reading Museum

Search the Collections

Help - How to use this site

How do I find what I want?

What's here?

This website is a growing online catalogue of our collections. The first records uploaded were linked to the themes of Reading at war, local photographic collections and world cultures. New groups of records from different parts of the collections are added about every six months.

The site is best viewed using Internet Explorer 9 or above, or an equivalent such as Google Chrome etc. Older browsers such as Internet Explorer 8 should work but do not fully support all the site's features.

Just browsing?

If you just want to get a flavour of the collections, we suggest you start with the Topics. Topic records give a short introduction to a subject, such as Reading Abbey, and each is linked to a group of records about individual objects that are related to that subject. Some Topics are also linked to each other or to other websites, to help you browse the collection and find out more.

Know what you're looking for?

If you know exactly what you're looking for, start with one of the subject pages - Archaeology, Art, History, Nature or World. From here you can search each area of the collection using indexes designed to help you answer questions like 'Are there any 1950s photographs of Reading Abbey?' (See the next section for more tips on index searching.) The subjects can overlap, with some items appearing in two or more subject categories. For example, a photograph of Reading Abbey ruins will appear in both Archaeology and History.

If you aren't sure which part of the collection an item is in or you want to search across all the different types of collections, use the free text search box on the menu bar at the top of the page.

More on searching

The free text search looks for the string of characters you have entered wherever they appear in any record in the catalogue. It is not case sensitive.

Each subject page - Archaeology, Art, History, Nature and World - can be searched for four main types of information using drop-down lists drawn from the catalogue indexes. You can choose terms from as many boxes as you like. Here are some tips to help you use the indexes:

Object type

  • All objects have a 'wide' term, such as 'painting', and many also have a narrower term, such as 'oil painting' or 'watercolour'. In this example, if you choose 'painting', you would find all the oil paintings and all the watercolours.
  • Some types of object appear in more than one subject area, for example there could be photographs in Archaeology, Art, History, or World.

Place names

  • This list includes site names, street names, towns, counties, countries, continents, and also names of landscape features such as rivers and mountains.
  • Places can be linked to objects in different ways, depending on the type of object - for example, a place may be shown in a painting or photograph, or where an object was made or collected.
  • Many records have both wider and narrower terms (for example town 'Reading' and site name 'Reading Abbey'). However, country and continent names are mostly used in Nature and World (in Nature, continents only appear if we don't know which country something came from).
  • Small settlements appear on the index under the name of the civil parish they are in, for example Farley Hill can be found under 'Swallowfield <Farley Hill>'. Areas of Reading are listed in a similar way. If part of an area is in Reading Borough and part is not, it may appear twice - for example, you will find both 'Reading <Tilehurst>' and 'Tilehurst' on the index.
  • You will also see some historic place names where there is no direct or known modern equivalent, especially in Archaeology and World.

Person, organisation and collection names

  • Individual people's names appear with the surname first, as in 'Austen, Jane'. Titles, including royal titles, appear after names.
  • Groups and organisations are listed under their most commonly used name.
  • We've also added named collections to this list, as a lot of early collections are called after their donors and donors' names do not appear on it.

Periods - Dates

  • In Art, History and World this will generally reflect the date the object was created. The period is more or less precise depending on the level of information we have about the object, and these objects usually only have one period. For example if we know a photograph was taken in 1956 it will be '1950s' not '20th century, mid'.
  • Archaeology records may have more than one period - the date the object was made and the date it was collected.

Periods - Geological

  • In Nature, geological age/period terms and rock names (such as 'Cretaceous' and 'Upper Chalk') appear instead of 'date' type periods, and records of fossils often include more than one of them - for example, 'Cretaceous', 'Upper Chalk' and 'Mesozoic'.
  • Nature records cannot be searched by collecting date but this information will be in the records themselves, if it is available.

After you carry out an index search you can go back to the subject page to change your choices if you don't get the results you were expecting - use your browser's 'back' button. If you want to remove a word from one of the boxes, select the blank space from the top of the drop-down list.

Search results appear in museum object number order. In a free text search, any Topics will be listed alphabetically at the end.

The 'Search within results' box that appears on all search results pages is a free text search that only works within your current set of records. For example if you start with a free text search for 'abbey' your results will include any item related to Reading Abbey, Westminster Abbey, Abbey School and Abbey Road. Searching within those results for something else more specific, such as 'theatre', will help narrow down your search.

This site was created as part of a project called Reading Connections, which ran in 2013/14 in partnership with the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading, and was funded by Arts Council England's Renaissance Strategic Support Fund.