2022-23 | Reading the Room: Accessing books in heritage spaces

An image of a heavily book-lined room, with classical busts ornamenting the shelves. Two chairs sit in front of the fireplace.

2022-23 'Reading the Room: Accessing books in heritage spaces'


TORCH Knowledge Exchange Innovation Fund Awardee
Professor Sophie Ratcliffe   |   Faculty of English   |   University of Oxford

Partner Organisation              Research Team
The National Trust                     Dr Anna Beer   |     Professor Abigail Williams   |    

For the international research community, the National Trust libraries offer a remarkable opportunity to encounter rare books in non-institutional spaces, and for the research community to explore the library as a collection with material links to its surroundings and readers. Yet these libraries are hard to access and little known. 'Reading the Room: Accessing books in heritage spaces' aims to understand better the engagement opportunities offered by these unique book collections.

The project seeks to find out how research into the collections might offer new ways into the visitor experience, and how access to the collections might enhance future research. It offers an opportunity for innovation which will transform engagement with the collections for both sets of users. Our research team will work with visitors, property curators and researchers, to find out what they wish to know about the National Trust's heritage libraries. Using our questions to shape a series of scoping and networking activities, we aim to develop new and innovative models for  access, to benefit multiple communities.


2022-23 | Reading the Room: Accessing books in Heritage spaces

Tim Pye
Curator | National Trust

Dr Anna Beer 
Affiliated Scholar | Faculty of English 

Anna Beer, wearing glasses and a blue shirt, smiles at the camera

Anna Beer is the author of five biographies, written for non-specialists, but drawing on the latest research in the field. Bess: The Life of Lady Ralegh, Wife to Sir Walter, the first life of this important early-modern figure, was published early in 2004 by Constable. In 2008 John Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer and Patriot (Bloomsbury) appeared, followed by Sounds and Sweet Airs: the Forgotten Women of Classical Music (Oneworld Publications) in 2016, runner-up for the Royal Philharmonic Society Creative Communications award in 2017. The book has attracted extensive media coverage on television and radio with Anna appearing in a BBC Four documentary (June 2018), writing two radio series for Classic FM, and currently contributing to another forthcoming TV documentary. Anna continues with these creative collaborations to help this under-represented music be heard.

Professor Abigail Williams
Professor of English Literature; Lord White Tutorial Fellow, St Peter’s College

Professor Abigail Williams looks up at the camera, wearing a black top and a yellow cardigan

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