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Museum of Writing Pencils

The Museum of Writing

The Museum of Writing is focused on matters central to the historical and theoretical understanding of writing from its invention to the present.


The repository showcases materials housed at the Senate House Library at the University of London. The online environment will provide interpretative exhibits and an interface for browsing the Museum’s collections as digital images and descriptive record while pointing to the existence of the analogue artefacts available for more advanced research. The notion of writing around which the Museum’s programs are built is defined as a set of technologies for the production of written forms through inscription, handwriting, print, or any other means. Thus the Museum’s mission extends to the history of books, scripts, notation systems, and materials for their production. But the Museum’s research and educational mission also includes attention to basic questions of literacy and communication in their many cultural dimensions. The Museum’s goal is to create a networked environment for information about the history and theory of writing as a material form, by promoting scholarship, pedagogy, and public interest in this important area of cultural activity.

The Museum of Writing is supported by funds from the School of Advanced Study, University of London, Dean’s Development Fund and by the Breslauer Professor Fund at the University of California, Los Angeles.


The original collection of artifacts was assembled by Alan Cole over a period of several decades. The collection was acquired by the Senate House Library at the University of London in order to make it publically owned and available for research and study. The collection consists of upwards of 80,000 individual artifacts the total number of which expands if every pen nib, sheet of vellum, or element in each item is included in the count. The collection also contains reference materials to the history of writing and has special clusters of items around areas of interest to the original collector, such as writings and autographical materials by individual authors. A full index of these materials is not available at this time.

Development Team

The Museum of Writing is being developed as an international collaboration among UCLA, University of London, and King’s Digital Lab. Digitization of the artifacts, cataloguing, and basic repository development will take place at the University of London, with assistance from the Senate House Library’s digital unit. Metadata design and interface concepts are the responsibility of the UCLA Digital Library Staff and Information Studies working group. King’s College London researchers from the Humanities Computing program have been responsible for the technical development of the EMu repository and coordination of the design.

For more information visit the Museum of Writing's Blog.

Museum of Writing 'Guess the Object' quiz

Thanks to those of you who joined our #MOWRC quiz on Twitter @IES_London. Find the full list of quiz questions and answers below!


MPhil/PhD Study

Now available via distance learning, the Institute can supervise research degrees in a range of literature-related topics.

Click to find out about our supervisors and funding opportunities.