Research tip #2: a secret MERL library resource …
Although they are known as the Classified Information Files, the MERL library’s collection of cuttings does not contain top secret information and is not kept under lock and key either, but is freely available for readers to browse in the Special Collections Service reading room! The collection contains articles and cuttings from local and national newspapers and periodicals, including some titles which the library does not hold. The cuttings are kept in folders in the filing cabinets in the reading room, and are organised by the MERL subject classification in alphabetical order. This scheme is used for objects and photographs: it is different from the MERL library classification scheme. A subject card index to the cuttings is available in the reading room. The collection is currently being reorganised into the MERL library classification number order (with subject names added) but is fully accessible and available to browse during this work.
Although the collection is only added to occasionally, it is a useful way of retrieving information published in periodicals and newspapers which don’t justify the full cataloguing treatment and which might otherwise be difficult to find. Subjects covered by the clippings include material on agricultural machinery, farm livestock and rural crafts as well as articles and cuttings on more obscure subjects including ancient rural traditions such as ‘beating the bounds’, rural superstitions and the phenomenon of ‘will-o’-the-wisps’ in the countryside. When all else fails with a research query, a quick search of the cuttings files can sometimes yield an important snippet of information or perhaps you might come across an interesting subject for a piece of research. Have a browse and see what you can find!
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You can view the MERL Classification in its current form at https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/sense-of-place/working-on-the-merl-classification