We were invited to take part in Reading Culture Day. The event took place at the Whiteknights Campus on Wednesday 17th February, during the University’s Enhancement Week.
The day’s events and activities were designed to celebrate and explore cultural diversity within the University of Reading and the wider community. It encouraged students to take an international outlook and to think about our place within the global community. Among the many contributors, there was a tour of coffee from around the world, foreign film screenings, representatives from the Camp America experience and even a henna artist. It was also an opportunity to take a break and re-fresh. There were free yoga sessions, an introduction to the practice of mindfulness and tips on how to manage academic work and stress. The inclusion of Reading Culture Day within the Spring 2016 Enhancement Week programme was seen to be particularly fitting due to the fact that 2016 has been declared Reading’s ‘Year of Culture’.
The Museum of English Rural Life and Special Collections staff curated a pop-up display of Ladybird archive material, and advised students on how to access the wealth of collections, archives and material culture housed at the London Road Campus. We encouraged students to think about how this resource could be used to support and enhance their research. You can find out more here. We also invited a member of the MERL Student Panel to join us for the day, giving new students an opportunity to be involved with the Museum. You can read more about the Panel’s activities here.
Our pop-up display Reading Ladybird showcased the archive of original Ladybird artworks which forms part of the University’s Special Collections. The University is responsible for the care of over 700 boxes of these iconic paintings, each one a rich illustration from a page of a Ladybird children’s book.
Ladybird has been an intrinsic part of British childhood for much of the twentieth century, particularly if you grew up between the 1950s and 1970s. The books are a reflection of the wider world, and of the interests of children. We were surprised and happy to hear that many of our younger students, including our international students were familiar with the books and had a nostalgic relationship to the material.
To hear more about the history, design and scope of Ladybird publishing, listen to our curator-led tour of the display in this short video.
Using the collections in Teaching & Research
Ladybird acted both as an educator and storyteller with comprehensive subject matters. The natural world, the dramatisation of history, technology and engineering, domesticity, factual science and well-loved fairy tales all had a place within Ladybird’s pages. There are also a number of Ladybird books on agricultural subjects which are explored in the Museum of English Rural Life.
As a researcher you might find an interesting angle on your subject through its treatment in a Ladybird book. Likewise, if you’re researching social history, book design, teaching pedagogy or children’s literature then accessing Ladybird is a fantastic opportunity to conduct object-based research.
If you missed the pop-up exhibition, you can view the Ladybird archive by appointment. Contact Special Collections either by phone (0118 378 8660) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).