Reading Museum – Overview

Included in Reading’s Town Hall, near the train station in the town’s centre, Reading Museum is known for its landmark building and broad ranging collections.

The Town Hall was built in a number of phases between the end of the 18th and 19th centuries. Although it took over 100 years to build, the iconic façade was designed in 1875, and the museum finally opened to the public in 1883.

Since then Reading Museum has sought to provide opportunities for learning, inspiration and enjoyment for locals and visitors to the town. Highlights include Britain’s copy of the Bayeux Tapestry, mosaics from Calleva Atrebatum, the Roman town at nearby Silchester and an extensive display showing how biscuit making grew to be such a large part of Reading’s economy.

There are eleven galleries of amazing artefacts from around the world, and also closer to home. The museum aims to provide something for everyone from biscuit tins to beetles, Romans to Rodin. There is also a yearly programme of temporary exhibitions and exciting events.

Reading Museum tells local histories and shows the development of the natural environment with a variety of displays. The custodians and volunteers care for the museum’s objects that originate from around the world. Preservation is an important part of the museum’s work, relating to artefacts from a range of eras and materials. They must equally be as careful with Roman relics as they are with Victorian tapestries, artworks and taxidermy creatures.

From the earliest days of the museum, there has been a collection of archaeology, art, natural history, and ethnography, as well as other objects relating to the story of Reading. Nowadays, the collection process revolves around the people and environment of the town, proudly celebrating the town and its interesting and varied history.

There is a school loans service at the museum that started in 1911 and has offered opportunities for children to handle real artefacts ever since. The nationally recognised programme is designed to promote engagement with Reading Museum’s collections through increased learning, community and volunteering.

There is a small branch offshoot from Reading Museum, named Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock, which tells the history of the rivers in the area and hosts community art exhibitions in the summer. Roughly a 15 minute walk from the main museum building via the historic Abbey Quarter, the Riverside Museum occupies two former waterwork buildings on the banks of the river Kennet.

The museum is also responsible for the Abbey Gateway, a grade I listed building that is home to a Victorian Schoolroom experience, which is a fantastic hands-on learning part of Reading Museum’s education offering.

There are a host of family friendly activities and facilities on offer throughout the year, including hands-on workshops suitable for all ages from toddlers to adults.

Reading Museum has a café onsite which offers home-made cakes, fair-trade tea and coffee. In the shop there is a range of gifts on offer that includes Huntley & Palmers biscuits and tins, Reading memorabilia and Victorian-style toys.