Weekly what’s on: 18 to 24th August

You can find details of all our forthcoming events at on our What’s On pages, but here’s what’s happening at MERL this week…

Events

jethro 8 cutout flipSummer holiday family fun!

For details of all our events and activities for families this summer, download our new MERL families guide or visit the Family events page.

As well as the ‘Make and takes’ and workshops listed below, there’s garden games, a rat trail, dressing up and more to entertain children of all ages any time you visit.

 

An introduction to cooperage

Cooper_from_the_Farmers_Weekly_Collection,_MERL

  • 23 August
  • 3 – 4pm – talk
  • 4.15pm – visit the coopering section in the museum with the speaker
  • Free | Booking advisable but not essential

What is a Cooper and Cooperage? This talk by Marshall Scheetz, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, USA will introduce the historical importance of the cooperage industry in rural and urban England. Historian and Journeyman Cooper, Marshall Scheetz will make reference to tools and cooperage in the MERL collections along with images from his own research to describe the construction of a cask, the uses of cooperage and the training of a cooper from Apprentice through to Journeyman and Master.

Following the talk, join Marshall in the coopering section of the Museum to see the tools relating to the craft and watch a short video showing the process of making a cask.

 

Also:

2.15-2.55pm - You are invited to join a free guided tour of the museum, focussing on the craft collections.

See some examples of the projects Marshall works on day to day on his Instagram account  at http://instagram.com/marshallscheetz

- See more at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/whatson/merl-specialevents.aspx#sthash.RuLBV5mU.dpuf

 

 

Garden-Cress-in-Egg-Container-after-15apr11-600x450Weekly make and takes
19th to 24th Aug – Cress egg boxes!
£1 per child, drop-in

 

 

 

Guided tourGuided tours
Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays, 3-3.45pm
Free, booking advisable but not essential
Let our fully trained tour guides tell you the stories behind the objects on display and visit the object store to see MERL’s hidden treasures.

 

 

 

Felt cut-outFabulous felt-making workshop
22nd August, 10-11am, 11.30-12.30pm, 1.30-2.30pm, 3-4pm
£3 per child, Book, Suitable for families with children aged 5+
Be inspired by the MERL collections and create your very own felt wall-hanging to take home. With artist, Claire Smith

 

 

 

Exhibitions

DennyReading University College: WW1 and beyond
Tuesday 1st April to 31 August, 2014
Staircase hall, MERL
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
Funded by Arts Council England as part of the Reading Connections project, 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 MERL and the Special Collections relating to other conflicts.
Part of our WW1 programme

 

greenhamCollecting the countryside: 20th century rural cultures
Until Autumn 2014
Temporary exhibition space
Free, drop in, normal museum opening times
Since 2008 the Museum of English Rural Life has been adding even more objects to its collection, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme, in order to represent each decade of the last century. (Find out more in Curator, Isabel Hughes’ recent post) This exhibition gives a taste of what has been acquired and challenges visitors to suggest the modern-day objects that the Museum needs to collect for the future. The exhibition will help the Museum to explore how to incorporate more recent histories and representations of the English countryside into its displays as part of the new Our Country Lives project.

 

A Day in the Life of a MERL-man…

Written by Tom Hewitt, MERL Intern.

My name is Tom Hewitt and I’m currently working as an intern at MERL. The title of my post may be somewhat misleading, as I’ve actually been here for 40 days (and 40 nights!) already and have just been set the scary task of writing my first ever blog post.

Tom celebrating #YorkshireDay

Tom celebrating #YorkshireDay

FAQ

1)      What are you doing? (Why are you even here?)

Of course one of the first questions people ask, and it’s a hard question to ask without sounding rude! My week is split 3 ways, with 2 key aims: to develop MERL’s online presence and to help with researching for the new galleries. Two days a week I work on social media and marketing, tweeting, planning, and evaluating our social media impact, and 1 day a week I help plan and create video blogs and an accompanying schedule! For the remaining 2 weekdays, I research for the galleries as well as scanning interesting photos and indexing journals. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time handling objects and perusing the stores! Aside from that, there are plenty of meetings and of course mandatory coffee and cake time – or as it would be called in Sweden, Fika.

2)      What are you going to do next?

Here at MERL, I’ll be carrying on with similar tasks, as well as helping to organise some fun events in the Museum, quite possibly involving model railways and remote controlled cars! Beyond that – who knows! It seems to be the most common question for all students or graduates, and must be one of the most avoided questions of all time (so that is precisely what I’m going to do here…)!

Tom has also been enjoying the MERL tradition of regular cake days..

Tom has also been enjoying the MERL tradition of regular cake days..

3)      How are you finding your Internship?

I’m really enjoying working at MERL, particularly because the staff are so friendly and lovely to work with. It’s very interesting working with people with different interests and personalities, and different outlooks on various aspects of the Museum. The research side of things is fascinating too (as a History graduate, it would be somewhat out of character were I to say otherwise!), and the social media work is comfortingly familiar, but actually offers just as much if not more of a challenge than the research.

4)      Is it what you expected?

To be completely honest, I was a mixture of nervous, excited and apprehensive when I started. Would I be any good at my job? Would it be exciting – was there actually anything in the Museum’s collection I might be interested in, and could I put up with this marketing business? Well, I actually think that the answer to the latter two questions was no – until I started working here that is. Since then I’ve found tons of items in the collections that interest me, and the challenge provided by the social media marketing is actually quite stimulating and interesting, not at all as boring as I worried it might be!

 

So I suppose my closing message has to be a cheesy one – don’t write something off before trying it out, you never know how exciting something might be until you try it out.

Tremendous trees & the science of surveying

Earlier in the year, Project Archivist, Nancy Fulford went on a training event organised by RE:LEAF in London, a partnership campaign led by the Mayor to protect the capital’s trees and encourage individual Londoners, businesses and organisations to plant more trees. Nancy discovered that there are several national and local initiatives to survey trees. Inspired by her findings, Nancy decided to share her new skills with colleagues and visitors to MERL by organising the Tremendous Trees event on Saturday 16th August.

The University of Reading has over 8000 trees across the Whiteknights and London Road campuses, residential sites and here at MERL. The University’s Grounds Team looks after our trees and regularly surveys them to check growth and health, and earmarks trees that may pose a risk to the public, such as those with branches damaged by strong winds or weakened by dying wood.

Across the country trees are being surveyed and the results added to websites such as Treezilla and OPAL (Open Air Laboratories). Treezilla is a citizen science initiative which aims to create a ‘monster map’ of British trees. Anyone can sign up and start inputting data about the trees in their local area. Similarly OPAL is encouraging people to conduct a tree health survey.

Trees provide us with a range of amazing benefits which we cannot obviously see. These benefits, often referred to as ecosystem services, can be calculated and translated into a monetary value using the results of the survey. We are surveying some of the trees in the MERL garden to add to Treezilla’s monster map and see exactly what they are doing for us! The benefits calculated by Treezilla are:

  • Greenhouse gas benefits

Carbon dioxide is absorbed by trees and oxygen released, giving environmental and health benefits.

  • Air quality benefits

Various pollutants are absorbed by leaves, improving the quality of the air and in turn improving the social environment we live in.

  • Energy benefits

Shade from trees helps imrove climate conditions inside buildings so that less energy is required to cool or heat areas of buildings.

  • Water benefits

Leaves hold rainwater, limiting the amount of  water run-off which can pollute our water systems.

Additional benefits provided by trees include aesthetic value, noise reduction and general wellbeing.

Here’s one of the trees we have surveyed in the MERL garden and the results:

Tree

Sweetgum
Greenhouse gas benefits: 527.7 kg CO₂ reduced = £12.66 saved
Water benefits: 1,725.3 litres conserved = £2.87 saved
Energy benefits: 1,339.5 kWh conserved = £53.58 saved
Air quality benefits: 2.7kgs = £10.19 saved
Total annual savings = £79.30

If you’d like to learn more about the science of tree surveying and have a go yourself, come along to the free Tremendous Trees event this Saturday between 1 and 5pm. You will be able to book on to free tree surveying workshops at 1.30pm and 3.30pm on arrival. The event is suitable for all the family, with a leaf-rubbing craft activity as well as the opportunity to see a display of objects relating to forestry and tree-related items from the MERL library and archives. You’ll also be able to mark our favourite local trees on our very own map…

Tremendous Trees map

For more information, visit the Special events page on the MERL website

 

 

Volunteers’ Voice #14: Volunteers and Our Country Lives

Written by Rob Davies, Volunteer Coordinator.

As you will know, we have recently been awarded a significant grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund for our redevelopment project Our Country Lives. I do not exaggerate when I say that volunteers made an enormous contribution to this success and they will play a very important role in the delivery of the project as a whole over the course of the next three years.

Volunteers helped with visitor evaluation at last year's Fete.

Volunteers helped with visitor evaluation at last year’s Fete.

Volunteers supported the delivery of round one in many ways; for instance by helping us with the vast undertaking of our visitor research, from collecting through to collating the data. This helped us form a good idea of who our current audiences are and why they visit. Volunteers also attended consultancy and planning meetings, making valuable contributions to our thinking and our plans.

With the delivery of round two of the project our volunteers will again be essential. They will support many elements of delivering the project, from assisting with the care of the objects during this time of major transition to the support of and participation in community projects.

You may ask why we as an organisation felt it was so important for volunteers to play a role in this major grant application and delivery of the project. The truth is, volunteers play a crucial role in the day-to-day running of the University Museums and Special Collections Service. This project will have a major impact upon many areas of our service and we feel it is vital that volunteers are included.

With any major project work it is always necessary to update and talk to your volunteer team regularly. If they begin to feel that everything is happening behind their backs and they are being left behind, a feeling of discontent will grow amongst your team. I will include updates in the volunteer newsletter, send specific updates via email and hold regular team meetings. I will encourage them to read (and hopefully contribute to) the Our Country Lives blog where there will be regular updates.

At this time of great change it is important for everyone involved to go forward as one, ensuring the project will be an even greater success.

 

 

Weekly what’s on: 11 to 17 August

You can find details of all our forthcoming events at on our What’s On pages, but here’s what’s happening at MERL this week…

Events

jethro 8 cutout flipSummer holiday family fun!

For details of all our events and activities for families this summer, download our new MERL families guide or visit the Family events page.

As well as the ‘Make and takes’ and workshops listed below, there’s garden games, a rat trail, dressing up and more to entertain children of all ages any time you visit.

 

 

Woolly sheepWeekly make and takes
12th to 17th Aug – Woolly sheep!
£1 per child, drop-in
Always a popular activity – dig your hands in a basket of beautiful wool tops and decorate a colourful woolly sheep!

For details visit the Summer family events page on our website

 

 

familytourguidesFamily tour
Tuesday 12th August, 2.30pm
Free, drop-in
Join Dolly the Dairymaid and Maggie the Thatcher for a fun, interactive 30-minute tour of the Museum and hear stories of what it used to be like to live and work in the countryside.

 

 

 

Guided tourGuided tours
Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays, 3-3.45pm
Free, booking advisable but not essential
Let our fully trained tour guides tell you the stories behind the objects on display and visit the object store to see MERL’s hidden treasures.

 

 

 

Garden June 14Tremendous trees!
16th August, 1-5pm
Free, drop-in
Suitable for all
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  skills to identify the trees in your local area.

 

 

Exhibitions

DennyReading University College: WW1 and beyond
Tuesday 1st April to 31 August, 2014
Staircase hall, MERL
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
Funded by Arts Council England as part of the Reading Connections project, 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 MERL and the Special Collections relating to other conflicts.
Part of our WW1 programme

 

greenhamCollecting the countryside: 20th century rural cultures
Until Autumn 2014
Temporary exhibition space
Free, drop in, normal museum opening times
Since 2008 the Museum of English Rural Life has been adding even more objects to its collection, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme, in order to represent each decade of the last century. (Find out more in Curator, Isabel Hughes’ recent post) This exhibition gives a taste of what has been acquired and challenges visitors to suggest the modern-day objects that the Museum needs to collect for the future. The exhibition will help the Museum to explore how to incorporate more recent histories and representations of the English countryside into its displays as part of the new Our Country Lives project.

 

Coopering in the MERL collections

Image from the Farmers Weekly Collection at MERL.

Since May I’ve been working on the Reading Engaged project to research content for the new galleries which will form part of MERL’s redevelopment project, Our Country Lives. True to my passions as ever, I’ve been taking the opportunity to focus on researching craft, as we’re hoping to dedicate a large part of one of the galleries to craft. We hope to use different crafts that we have examples of in our collections to highlight key issues affecting the heritage craft sector, bearing in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all story for craft. We also want to ensure that the galleries are up to date and reflect the current state of making and show the many varied and vibrant ways in which these crafts exist today.

One of the crafts I’ve researched so far is coopering. The only things I knew before I started came from the headline ‘only one Master Cooper left in England’ and from watching the fantastic video of a cooper knocking up a cask that we currently have on display in the Museum. When you start to think about it, you realise how incredible coopering really is. Ken Kilby, author of several books on the craft, describes the barrel as ‘the greatest invention of all time’ for without it ‘most goods would have remained right where they were made, or not have been made at all.’

Cooper holding finished cask bound with many hoops (P DX318 PH1/41/83)

Cooper holding finished cask bound with many hoops (P DX318 PH1/41/83)

Casks (the term ‘barrel’ describes a particular size of cask) were used to transport all sorts of goods, wet and dry. Over the centuries, coopering gradually divided itself into three main branches, with an acceptance among coopers that certain branches were more skilled than others. The main categories are dry coopering (least skilled), white coopering and wet coopering (most skilled). When you think about it, it really is quite incredible to be able to make a watertight cask of a specified size which can withstand long years of rough handling with no glue or sealants, and hardly any measurements! Another great Ken Kilby quote: ‘There are no amateur barrel makers.’

By the end of the nineteenth century, the majority of cooperages were found in breweries, when Britain was brewing approximately 37 million gallons of beer. In 1889, Bass’s Brewery at Burton on Trent employed 400 coopers; and circa 1900 Shooters, Chippingdale and Colliers employed 630 coopers! Until World War II, coopering had seemed a secure occupation but by the 1950s most of the independent cooperages in Britain had closed, and during the 1950s–1970s wooden casks were phased out of the larger breweries. By 2010 only 4 breweries still employed a qualified cooper, and today Theakston’s are the only brewery to do so.

We have about 80 coopering tools at MERL, along with various coopered products including cider kegs, butter churns, cheese moulds and buckets. The majority of the tools come from two sets: one from the cooper’s shop at H. & G. Simonds Ltd., known as the Bridge Street Brewery, in Reading; the other from a cooper who served his apprenticeship at Reading Brewery 1948–1952 (we also have his certificate of indenture for his apprenticeship). The first set is currently on display in the Museum galleries. Take a look at the tools on our online database.

I’ve been working to create a ‘content pack’ for each craft I research. This includes reading up on the subject and writing introductory notes, looking at the related objects we have in the collections and identifying particular objects which can be used to illustrate specific points and, with the help of Danni and Caroline, investigating the Archives to see what we have in terms of documents and photographs.  I’ve also been in contact with Alistair Simms, England’s only Master Cooper (to become a Master Cooper you must have successfully trained an apprentice), who I’m hoping to visit in September, and Theakston’s Brewery.

If you want to find out more about coopering, come along to MERL on Saturday 23 August when Marshall Scheetz, historian and Journeyman Cooper at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, USA, will be giving ‘An introduction to cooperage’. The talk is free. Details here.

 

Written by Greta Bertram, Project Officer.

4 years of Rural Reads

Our July meeting marked the fourth anniversary of the Rural Reads book club.  For four years we have been reading books with a rural theme or setting that have spanned countries and historic periods, covering farming practices, rural lives and countryside themes. The rural theme has not been at all restrictive and the books we have read have been incredibly varied, always provoking different reactions.  In this post some of the members share their personal highlights from the past four years.

germinal1Robert Davies, Volunteer Coordinator: For me there are three books that stand out. The first book I read at book group was Germinal by Emile Zola. I am an avid reader and fan of Zola so this book was already a winner for me. I like Germinal because of vivid scenes of the mining countryside in the North of France, the one scene I always remember is the lowering of a horse into the mine shaft. This book is about the poverty of the working class, the violence and unpredictability of a starving mob and how political ideals such as Marxism were infiltrating the working class.

The second book I thoroughly enjoyed was Lorna Doone by R.D.Blackmore. For me Lorna Doone epitomized the rural novel; the descriptions of looking after and caring for livestock were endearing and it goes into depth about using the tools we have on display at MERL. Lorna Doone is also a sweeping romantic novel, with duels, fights and passion.

My third and final choice is very different  -  The Dirty Life: A story of Farming and Falling in Love by Kristan Kimball. When I received this book through the post I thought “I am not going to enjoy this”; within ten pages I was gripped and finished the book within 24 hours. It’s an autobiographical account of a journalist who falls in love with a farmer and they make a new life together. It’s a book that I have since bought as a gift for many people and would recommend to many more.

 

Harvest-186x300Adam, Project Officer at MERL and member of Rural Reads: “My favourite part of Rural Reads is how so many of our books give a context and setting for the objects here at MERL. Reading about the tools, equipment and everyday objects being used in a living landscape full of characters and communities brings out the significance and depth of the collection in a more entertaining way than many of our object records (good as they are!). To this end, I’ve really enjoyed Harvest by Jim Crace, which explored the impact of enclosure on a superstitious rural community, and Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore, which managed to be both realist in its presentation of living in Dartmoor but also Disney-esque in its romantic plotline.”

 

Dr Jeremy Burchardt, Associate Professor in History, University of Reading: ‘Rural Reads is a great addition to the cultural scene in Reading.  I’ve really enjoyed the discussions I’ve been along to and it has introduced me to a number of books and authors I might not have come across otherwise.  Happy Birthday Rural Reads and long may you continue to flourish!’

 

rural ridesJanice Woodings, volunteer and member of Rural Reads: “I have very much enjoyed the book club during the couple of years I’ve been coming along. It has introduced me to books I wouldn’t have known about or read otherwise – and I’ve enjoyed/appreciated most of the titles. As our discussions show, there’s rarely (if ever) perfection in writing and literature. Great bonus when – for Miss Read and Graham Swift titles, for example – relevant objects and writings from the museum and special collections were made available for us to look at, adding to the appreciation of the topics, author’s life, etc. It’s a good discipline for me to know I should aim to finish a book for our discussion – just 4 weeks away. Too often – though I love books and reading – when I’m left to my own devices – I just find the solitary side means I take far too long to finish a book these days. That spoils the enjoyment. It’s always good to have company – even fleetingly. I love the atmosphere and setting – in the museum or garden – for discussions. And always appreciate the tea/biscuits/cake to accompany the chat! As with volunteering in the University’s Special collections, I’ve met plenty of lovely people. So I now know lots more people I wouldn’t have met otherwise…

I joined the book club because I had just read Germinal and a friend said the MERL group were about to discuss it. It remains my favourite of MERL choices. William Cobbett’s Rural Rides aroused my curiosity and led to discovering more about him and his life here and in America. His life seemed to relate to another book, I was reading at the time, ‘Parrot and Olivier in America’ and I enjoyed both his book and finding out more about him.

 

wildwoodJudith Moon, Visitor Services Assistant: Over the past 4 years of Rural Reads, there are two books which stand out in my memory – for very different reasons! I think my all-time favourite title would have to be Wildwood  by  Roger Deakin –  an English writer, documentary-maker and environmentalist, co-founder and trustee of Common Ground. I have enthused with anyone who’ll listen about  Deakin’s ability to weave so much of art,  history, literature and poetry into the story of the different varieties of woodland tree, not to mention his infectious enthusiasm for sleeping in woodlands – without the benefit of a tent – which I promised myself I would try at some point in my life!

At the other end of my Rural Reads spectrum would have to be Germinal  by Emile Zola – a book I really couldn’t finish because of its unrelenting grimness, not helped because we read it in February! However, as you’ve seen above, it was one of Rob Davies favourite books!

And finally, from an anonymous member: “I enjoy our very interesting discussions – different perspectives on different ‘reads’ (whether I have liked the book or not), sometimes leading us into uncharted territory on linked subject matter!”

As you can see, we’ve read a huges range of books and had so many fascinating discussions. You can read reviews of recent reads on this blog, and find a complete list of the books we’ve read on the Rural Reads web page.

a month in the countryNew members are always welcome – you don’t have to finish or even read the book to come along and join in the discussion. The group chooses the next book at each meeting, and suggestions are welcome from everyone.

From the Autumn, in anticipation of the closure of the Museum this Autumn for the Our Country Lives redevelopment, we’re going to be reading books (as well as rural ones) inspired by the Special Collections, and moving our meetings into the atmospheric setting of the stunning staircase hall.

The book to read for this month, however, maintains the rural theme. Rather fittingly, we’re reading A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr, a book we first read four years ago in August 2010! Come and join us on August 28th at 5.30pm.

 

A stitch in time: Conservation of 1951 wall hangings begins

Written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer for Our Country Lives.

Today, a very exciting part of Our Country Lives began – in fact, it is almost the starting pistol to the project! Accredited conservator Kate Gill will begin conservation work on two of our Michael O’Connell wall hangings. These are huge, 7×3.5m pieces of textile art made for the 1951 Festival of Britain, and this work will allow us to put them on public display for the first time in around 62 years in our new extension. See this moving GIF to see its unveiling!

We have only previously brought out the hangings for special occasions or for researchers.

We have only previously brought out the hangings for special occasions or for researchers.

Michael O'Connell in his Melbourne workshop.

Michael O’Connell in his Melbourne workshop.

Their creator has been described as a ‘Lost Modernist’, a textile artist whose style and colour typify the 1950s and ‘60s, though at the time they were considered stylishly bold, brash and modern. Artistically, O’Connell found his feet in Melbourne, Australia where he honed his craft skills by building his own house in 1923, something he was forced into after a health inspector condemned his previous home, which consisted of a tent and bits of ragged furniture. His romantic lifestyle on the outskirts of Melbourne society, often journeying into the Australian bush to paint and draw, was a far cry from his upbringing in Dalton, Cumbria. His previous aim was to study Agriculture but his artistic talents were never in question: when held as a prisoner of war in WWI, one of his guards complimented his work and encouraged him to pursue a career in it.

It was also in Australia where O’Connell hit upon various pioneering methods of dying fabric with his wife, Ella Moody, both of whom were prominent in the Australian Arts & Craft Society. They returned to England in 1937 and developed a close working relationship with Heal’s of London, who proved instrumental after the Second World War in supplying fabric for the Festival of Britain wall hangings.

O’Connell’s commission required wall hangings to decorate the Country Pavilion at the Festival of Britain, held in May-September 1951. The Festival came after six painful years of recovery and rationing and was intended to celebrate British industry, science, art and people, but it was also thought that another great exhibition would help lift the spirits of the nation after the Second World War. It was intended to be a ‘Tonic to the Nation.’ For the hangings themselves, O’Connell had to reflect the versatility and variety of farming in Great Britain, and so he took a tour of the nation, reflecting what he saw and experienced in his art. The result are seven hangings covering most of Great Britain, representing the distinctive character of our regions and providing an artistic snapshot of the state of British farming in the early 1950s.

The hangings will be conserved within the galleries on this large table.

The hangings will be conserved within the galleries on this large table.

The two hangings which we are conserving cover Cheshire and Kent, which we believe show the breadth of the artist’s skill. Our contracted conservator, Kate Gill, will be removing creases in the fabric, as well as repairing damage, cleaning them and reshaping them in preparation for display. She will be working on the textiles in our large gallery which currently contains the Steam Engine, Threshing Machine and Farming Cycle, as this is the only space large enough to accommodate them in the Museum. You are of course welcome to come and have a look!

The hangings will be displayed in rotation for five years each in their own special case, housed in a new extension to our gallery as part of Our Country Lives. We are also having a bookable family session tomorrow throughout the day where you can make your own wall hanging using fabric, stitching, and your own imagination!

How one of our new extensions may look with the wall hanging in it.

How one of our new extensions may look with the wall hanging in it.

Weekly what’s on: August 4th to 10th

You can find details of all our forthcoming events at on our What’s On pages, but here’s what’s happening at MERL this week…

Events

jethro 8 cutout flipSummer holiday family fun!

For details of all our events and activities for families this summer, download our new MERL families guide or visit the Family events page.

As well as the ‘Make and takes’ and workshops listed below, there’s garden games, a rat trail, dressing up and more to entertain children of all ages any time you visit.

 

 

Origami windmillWeekly make and takes
5th to 10th Aug – Origami paper windmills
£1 per child, drop-in
For details visit the Summer family events page on our website

 

 

 

wall hangingApplique and stitch wall-hanging workshop
6 August, 10-11am, 11.15-12.15pm, 1.30-32.30pm. 2.45-3.45pm
£4 per child. Booking re
Be inspored by this unique opportunity to see one of the Museum’s beautiful 1951 Festival of Britain wall-hangings. After examining the wall-hanging, create your very own landscape using layered fabrics and hand-stitched details. With artist, Julie Roberts.

 

 

Guided tours

WGuided tourednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays, 3-3.45pm
Free, booking advisable
Let our fully trained tour guides tell you the stories behind the objects on display and visit the object store to see MERL’s hidden treasures.

 

 

 

Exhibitions

DennyReading University College: WW1 and beyond
Tuesday 1st April to 31 August, 2014
Staircase hall, MERL
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
Funded by Arts Council England as part of the Reading Connections project, 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 MERL and the Special Collections relating to other conflicts.
Part of our WW1 programme

 

greenhamCollecting the countryside: 20th century rural cultures
Until Autumn 2014
Temporary exhibition space
Free, drop in, normal museum opening times
Since 2008 the Museum of English Rural Life has been adding even more objects to its collection, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme, in order to represent each decade of the last century. (Find out more in Curator, Isabel Hughes’ recent post) This exhibition gives a taste of what has been acquired and challenges visitors to suggest the modern-day objects that the Museum needs to collect for the future. The exhibition will help the Museum to explore how to incorporate more recent histories and representations of the English countryside into its displays as part of the new Our Country Lives project.

 

Weekly what’s on: July 28th to August 3rd

You can find details of all our forthcoming events at on our What’s On pages, but here’s what’s happening at MERL this week…

Events

Arts of Peace poetry night small posterThe Arts of Peace: poetry in the garden
Monday 28th July, 6.30-8.30pm
MERL garden (or indoors if the event of bad weather)
£3 per person. There are still tickets left,  but to avoid disappointment, please reserve places by emailing merlevents@reading.ac.uk or call 0118 378 8660
Come along to a summer’s evening of poetry for the launch of the new Two Rivers Press book, The Arts of Peace: An Anthology. Hear readings by the poets, enjoy a glass of wine and take a stroll around the museum.

 

Guided tour

Guided tour
Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays, 3-3.45pm
Free, booking advisable
Let our fully trained tour guides tell you the stories behind the objects on display and visit the object store to see MERL’s hidden treasures.

 

 

Summer holiday family fun!
For details of all our events and activities for families this summer, download our new MERL families guide or visit the Family events page

jethro 8 cutout flipWeekly make and takes
29th July to 3rd Aug – Hedgehog and squirrel finger puppets
£1 per child, drop-in
For details visit the Summer family events page on our website

 

 

country lives logoOur Country Lives family tour
Tuesday 29th August, 2.30-3.15pm
Free, drop-in, suitable for families with children aged 5
As we prepare to start work on our Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment project, we are inviting families to come along and find out about the changes we are planning and how you can get involved. For further details visit www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ourcountrylives

 

 

Jug cut-outCelebration of Canals
2 August, 2-4pm
Rising Sun Arts Centre, 30 Silver Street, Reading, RG1 2ST
Free, drop-in, suitable for all ages
On the same day as the Dead Rat Orchestra’s performance at the Arts Centre as part of their The Cut project, this free workshop will draw on MERL’s fascinating collection of canal art. Work with a Rising Sun artist to create striking large-format art.

 

Exhibitions

DennyReading University College: WW1 and beyond
Tuesday 1st April to 31 August, 2014
Staircase hall, MERL
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
Funded by Arts Council England as part of the Reading Connections project, 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 MERL and the Special Collections relating to other conflicts.
Part of our WW1 programme

 

greenhamCollecting the countryside: 20th century rural cultures
Until Autumn 2014
Temporary exhibition space
Free, drop in, normal museum opening times
Since 2008 the Museum of English Rural Life has been adding even more objects to its collection, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme, in order to represent each decade of the last century. (Find out more in Curator, Isabel Hughes’ recent post) This exhibition gives a taste of what has been acquired and challenges visitors to suggest the modern-day objects that the Museum needs to collect for the future. The exhibition will help the Museum to explore how to incorporate more recent histories and representations of the English countryside into its displays as part of the new Our Country Lives project.