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New frontiers of digital access

The development and delivery of virtual reading rooms and virtual teaching spaces amongst collection-holding institutions
Digital access Research libraries Virtual reality Archives Museums
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New frontiers of digital access 3.93 MB

This research report explores the development and delivery of Virtual Reading Rooms (VRRs) and Virtual Teaching Spaces (VTSs) amongst archives, special collections and museums.

The report presents the results from a major international survey of libraries, archives and museums, conducted by RLUK in May-June 2021.

VRR and VTS services enable human-mediated, remote digital access to archival, special, museum and gallery collections which do not depend on digitisation. Through the use of live streaming via visualisers located within physical reading rooms and learning spaces, scholars, teachers or members of the public can view and digitally engage with an institution’s heritage and cultural collections, asking for these to be positioned and interrogated by a member of staff, to enable their research or learning.

Virtual Reading Rooms and Virtual Teaching Spaces are emerging services which have largely grown out of the coronavirus pandemic. Although a pragmatic response to the closure, or partial closure, of buildings during various local, regional, and national lockdowns, VRRs are becoming established as bespoke research services and VTSs as valuable routes through which archives, special collections, museums and galleries can engage with diverse groups through virtual learning sessions.

The report presents the experiences of 32 institutions which have created, or intend to create, VRR and VTS services and explores the impact of these and their potential contribution to original research and learning across a range of disciplines.

The report will provide the foundation for a series of events and cross-sector discussions, led by RLUK, to explore the continued development and delivery of these exciting services nationally and internationally.

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