Museum of English Rural Life

Museum of English Rural Life
Museum of English Rural Life (MERL)
University of Reading
Redlands Road
Reading
Berkshire
RG1 5EX
England

Website

www.reading.ac.uk/merl

E-mail

Event bookings and enquiries

merlevents@reading.ac.uk

Telephone

0118 378 8660

Fax

0118 378 5632

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
Variety of British Farming - stained glass window of rural landscape with farmhouse, oasthouses, trees and a river plus fields of sheep and chickens.
baby changing facilities icon Food icon Guided tours icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Hearing disability facilities icon Visual disability facilities icon Wheelchair access icon

The Museum was founded in 1951 by the University of Reading. It was the first specialist museum of farming and rural life to be established in England and so was able to acquire large collections of high quality material at a time when mechanisation was bringing great changes to the countryside. It also played an important pioneering part in the formulation of procedures for the processing, cataloguing and conservation of such material. Today, the Museum is active at a national and international level in all aspects of rural museums.

The entire collection of this museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

Venue Type:

Museum, Library, Archive

Opening hours

Museum exhibitions: Tues - Fri 09.00- 17.00, Sat & Sun 14.00 - 16.30
Library & archives: Mon - Fri 09.00 - 17.00

Museum, Library and Archives closed on bank holidays, between Christmas and New Year and at Easter.

Admission charges

Admission Free

Additional info

Guided Tours are available at weekends at 3pm and on Wednesdays at 2.30pm. Booking is recommended although not essential. Tours are available at other times by appointment.

The entire collection of this museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

The Museum of English Rural Life is dedicated to the spirit of the English countryside and its people. It was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 at a time when the motorised revolution was changing the face of farming and sweeping away implements and techniques that had evolved over many generations.

Today, the museum is a national centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside, and continues with the task of recording and interpreting rural change. It is both a public resource and an academic research centre, preserving Designated collections of national and international significance. These comprise, in addition to the object collections, a library of over 50,000 books, archives of business and organisational records, and extensive photographic collections.

The collections cover the broad range of material relating to farming, rural crafts and industries, and country life. The bulk of the items date from the period 1850 to 1950. Pre 1850 farm tools and equipment are rare in England. Post 1950, the sheer range and size of farm machinery are inhibitors given the level of exhibition and storage space that we have available. This is why so much emphasis has been placed on reflecting this period through the two dimensional collections - especially the photographs and technical literature.

Collection details

Trade and Commerce, Toys and Hobbies, Social History, Science and Technology, Land Transport, Fine Art, Costume and Textiles, Archives, Agriculture

Key artists and exhibits

  • agricultural hand tools
  • farm wagons: there are over thirty in the collection
  • horse drawn ploughs
  • dairying equipment
  • livestock accessories eg horseshoes; veterinary equipment
  • land drainage material
  • country crafts and rural industries; the thatching collection, for example is particularly extensive as is that covering the woodland trades
  • woodworking and carpentry
  • country smocks
  • basketry; corn dollies
  • friendly society brasses
  • beekeeping equipment
  • animal traps
  • sewing machines
  • paintings and prints, especially of early nineteenth century livestock
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

MERL Staircase Exhibition: Reading University College: WW1 & Beyond

  • 1 April — 31 August 2014 *on now

MERL Staircase Exhibition:
Reading University College: WW1 and Beyond.
• Funded by the Arts Council England and inspired by the University of Reading Memorial Book and Clock Tower Memorial, this exhibition reveals the stories of the men and women with connections to the then, Reading University College, who fell during the First World War. The exhibition also looks at the theme of War in a broader sense with interesting items from the Museum and Archive collections relating to other conflicts.
• 1 April 2014 – 31 August 2014

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

This exhibition can be seen during MERL opening hours.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

MERL: Reading University College: WW1 and beyond: an exhibition

  • 1 April — 31 August 2014 *on now

Funded by Arts Council England and inspired by the University of Reading Memorial Book and Clock Tower Memorial, this exhibition reveals the stories of the men and women with connections to the then Reading Univesity College, who fell during WW1.

The exhibition also looks at the theme of War in a broader sense with interesting items from MERL and the Special Collections relating to other conflicts.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children

Admission

Free during MERL opening hours. See the www site for times.

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

MERL: Our Country Lives. MERL is changing

  • 29 July 2014 2:30-3:15pm

Our Country Lives: MERL is changing
You can find out more about the Heritage Lottery Fund grant at www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ourcountrylives Before the Museum closes in the autumn to allow the work to take place, we would like to invite you to a special family tour this summer. Come along and find out about the changes we are planning and how you can get involved in our Family Forum.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl

photograph of forest

MERL: Tremendous Trees

  • 16 August 2014 1-5pm

A special event celebrating our love of trees. Learn the science of identifying and surveying trees, have a go using the trees in the MERL garden and use your new-found skills to identify the trees in your local area.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Website

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/whatson/merl-familyevents.aspx

Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Free schools sessions

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/LearnatMERL/merl-schools.aspx

The Museum of English Rural Life offers an imaginative, experiential programme that brings excitement and interest to a museum visit. We believe that a museum visit should be cross-curricula and 'not just history'. Our collections and garden allow us to offer a school programme that explores objects and collections covering National Curriculum science, maths, art and literacy, as well as history.

How to obtain

Sessions are free, but must be booked in advance. Contact the Learning Manager at merlevents@reading.ac.uk or call 0118 378 8660

INTERFACE : INTERnet Farm And Countryside Explorer

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/interface/

Illustrated internet resource on farming, country people and the countryside, designed for a range of users; with sections on
livestock, dairying, rural crafts, country women, the changing landscape, mills and the mechanisation of farm machinery.
Includes Key Stage 2 Victorian Village quiz.

Creator

  • Museum of English Rural Life

Toddler Time at MERL

http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/whatson/merl-familyevents.aspx

Come along to Toddler Time at The Museum of English Rural Life and enjoy rhymes, songs and craft activities based on objects in the collection or the garden. Activities take place on term time Fridays, 10-11am and 13.00-14.00, and are suitable for children 2-4 years old and their carers. £2 per child, accompanying adult free.

How to obtain

£2 per child, accompanying adult free. There's no need to book. Contact merlevents@reading.ac.uk for more details.

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