Books in unexpected places

being human


Saturday 21 November 2015

Museum of English Rural Life, London Road campus, University of Reading

11.00 am to 4.00 pm

Join us to celebrate the University of Reading’s research in Heritage and Creativity, showcasing material from its renowned archives and collections.

There will also be a chance to look round the new building developments at the Museum of English Rural Life. Join staff for a special behind-the-scenes tour to hear more about the ‘Our Country Lives’ project.  The museum is currently closed for a Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment project to transform it and the way a new generation engages with rural heritage through new, themed displays, innovative interpretation and an exciting programme of activities.

Listen to talks about books in burials, philosophy in the trenches, poetry in Roman art, books in post-war reconstruction, in art and in excavations.

Talks 1  | 11.15 am – 12.45 pm


Hella Eckardt

Scribes and Books: the archaeology of Roman literacy

Who wrote books in the Roman period? And how? This talk is about the practice of writing with ink and papyrus, and about the identities of the few individuals who possessed this skill. New burial evidence shows that this included women and children, and people from all over the Roman Empire.


Amy Smith

Archaeological notebooks in the Ure Museum: From site records to travel diaries

This talk will transport you back to the first decades of the 20th century, when pioneering archaeologists Annie & Percy Ure wrote lively illustrated notebooks of their travels, museum visits and site records of their excavations in the cemetery at Rhitsona in Boeotia, Greece. These unique volumes are all part of the extensive records of the Ure’s archaeological work in Greece & their travels throughout Europe during the years that they were also creating the museum at the University of Reading that now bears their name.


Gerry Leonidas

From tragedy to politics: Doxiadis’ argument for post-war reconstruction

This is the story of a little-documented act of international policy from the immediate aftermath of WWII, unique in its scale, using design to document, to recount, to imagine, to argument, and to influence international policy. A rare insight into a way of doing politics that is more nuanced and eloquent than most contemporary actions.


Talks 2  | 2.30 am – 4.00 pm


John Preston

Logic in hell – Wittgenstein’s notebooks

Fighting for the Austro-Hungarian army in WWI, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein theorises on the nature of language, logic, truth, and life itself. Eventually convinced that his death is imminent, he volunteers for the most dangerous postings, risking his life time and again while writing the notebooks he would later turn into his book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.


Karen Di Franco

Books in archives

Artists’ publishing is often considered — and held — separately within institutional collections: in the library, archive or the art collection. Considering the book as artwork, as object, and as a mode of dissemination and distribution, my presentation will explore some materials that question or test some of the ways that institutions classify artists’ books.


Peter Kruschwitz

Representations of poetry books in Roman art

Books exist in many places, expected and unexpected. But sometimes they merely exist in someone’s imagination – from that of an author-to-be, contemplating their future output, to decorative reproductions of book spines for posters and wrapping paper, to fake books with glued-together pages for an illustrative use in furniture outlets. Thus a book may turn into an object with a life both independent from, and ultimately even altogether lacking, its physical properties and traditional uses (as a carrier of texts and images). This presentation will consider a range of merely imagined books of the Roman period – books that feature in forms of Roman art, books that once may or may not have existed physically, but that, in their new context developed, and continue to develop, a new life.


Workshop: ‘Books at work’ |  1.00–2.30 pm


Come and share your reflections and personal experience
on books in the workplace. Hear about books in hospitals and in the mills.


This workshop, led by Rebecca Bullard will explore the ways in which we used books at work before the digital age. Participants will be invited to share their memories, and any books that they have brought along with them, with the rest of the group. We’ll also have two talks about books in the workplace in Victorian and Edwardian times:

Talk | Nicola Wilson – Reading at t’ mill

Exploring the writing of Lancashire mill-woman Ethel Carnie Holdsworth (1886-1962), this talk will offer some reflections on the long history of illicit reading at work and the significance of books and print culture to working-class history and factory life.

Talk | Andrew Mangham – Ward Words: The Old Library at the Royal Berkshire Hospital

The Royal Berkshire Hospital has been the home of a medical library since the 1840s. Dr Andrew Mangham discusses the history of the hospital and its extraordinary collection of old medical books.


View displays of rare books, botanical notebooks, children’s books, archaeological finds.


Alastair Culham

Notes from the Wilder parts of Spain

Where would you find original paintings and maps of more than 700 species of Spanish plants all based on sketches from the field?  The University’s Herbarium boasts outstanding collections that are even borrowed by Spanish botanists.  The John Carr collection of paintings by Jill Smythies and maps of plant locations give an insight into Southern Spain’s flora.


Sue Walker and Laura Weill

Books to think through

Sketches, drawings and mini-books from the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection show examples of children’s books in the making.


Fiona Melhuish

Unexpected insights : a display of annotated texts

While writing in books is generally discouraged, annotations and marginalia in books can offer valuable insights into the impact of books in their contemporary and later contexts. Through a selection of examples from the rare book collections, this display offers a glimpse into the private relationship and interaction between reader and text where the distinction between ‘book’ and ‘manuscript’ becomes blurred and mass-produced texts become unique artefacts.


Amy Smith

From ex agris to ex libris

A rare display of the archaeological field notebooks in the Ure Museum evidences the practical work of Classical archaeologists, Percy & Annie Ure, during their European travels and especially their excavations at Rhitsona, Boeotia, Greece, during the first quarter of the 20th century.



Events for children and families


11.00 – 12.00


Books in hidden places session for 4–6 year olds (All children to be accompanied by an adult.)

Learning Hub, London Road campus, University of Reading

Max number 20


Karen Goulding will introduce the session by discussing how she found some wonderful book illustrations hidden in a cupboard. Karen will then read a variety of books with hidden stories included within the pages. During the hands-on session, children will create their own book within a hidden place.

1.00 – 2.00pm
Jonnie Rocket for  7-11 year olds (All children to be accompanied by an adult.)
Learning Hub, London Road campus, University of Reading

Max number 20


This interactive session will involve a very brief introduction regarding the creation of Jonnie Rocket based on  Jonnie Chapman’s personal background and experiences in staring in the original ‘Star Wars’ film. He will read one of Jonnie Rockets adventures: The ride of terror ‘Jonnie Rockets mission is to save the ride of terror. Will he succeed, or have the troublemakers gone too far this time?



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About Cindy

Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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