‘Life on canals’: a Takeover Day exhibition

This gallery contains 19 photos.

On Friday 22nd November, the Museum of English Rural Life worked with the Institute of Education and took part in Kids in Museums’ Takeover Day. Throughout the day we welcomed Year 5 and 6 students from Geoffrey Field Junior School, Reading, and invited them to explore artefacts in the collections that relate to canal life […]

Pictures of the month #6 – Canal life

Photographic Assistant, Caroline Benson has resisted the temptation to select a festive image this month, instead sharing images she discovered whilst preparing materials for an education session last month…

The photographs this month are from a collection depicting canals & canal life. The two I have chosen were amongst a selection used by Philippa Heath, our Public Programmes Manager, in a school workshop held last month. The primary school children visited MERL as part of  Takeover Day and used pictures from our collection to create mini exhibitions (see an online version here) about life on the canals.

Unfortunately we don’t know the names of the people nor the location of the canal in these particular pictures but the date is August 1965.

The collection includes a variety of activities but here we have crocheting and painting.

Crochet on the canal - P DX1096_39

Crochet on the canal

 

 

 

Painting on the canal

Painting on the canal

 

 

Weekly What’s On: 9th to 15th December, ’13

HP christmasChristmas trail
until Friday 20th December, normal museum opening times
Free, drop-in
Suitable for families with children of all ages
Pick up a copy of our free Christmas trail at reception and learn about Victorian traditions on your way around the Museum

 

 

 

magic carpetToddler time
Friday 13th December, 10-11am,
£2 per child, drop-in
Suitable for families with children aged 2-4
Come along to the Museum with your little ones and enjoy rhymes, songs and craft activities. This week we’ll be making breaking open the Christmas glitter and making something sparkly!

 

 

 

HP christmasHuntley & Palmers: a Christmas selection
until 5 Jan, 2014
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
This seasonal display in the Staircase hall of the Palmers’ former family home, shows off some of the visual delights in the University’s extensive archive of local biscuit manufacturer, Huntley & Palmers

 

 

 

Collecting the countryside: 20th century rural cultures
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.

 

 

Our Country Lives project update: Activity planning

Isabel Hughes, MERL Curator, updates us on the work on the ‘Activity Plan’ for our Heritage Lottery Fund project

Earlier in the year, the Cultural Consulting Network was appointed to help MERL produce an activity plan as part of the Round 2 submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund for Our Country Lives.  The first section of an activity plan needs to address where an organisation is now.  MERL has gathered information about its visitors periodically but in order to present a current, rounded view of things now, a programme of audience research was set up over the summer.

We are hoping to build on successful events like our 2013 Village Fete!

We are hoping to build on successful events like our 2013 Village Fete!

 

Visitors views on the current galleries and the events and activities offered by MERL were gathered by a team of volunteers, led by Volunteer Co-ordinator, Rob Davies.  (Read his Volunteers Voice posts here) Views were also sought from the volunteers themselves, including their motivation for participating in activity for MERL and Special Collections.  At a recent meeting Cultural Consulting Network reported back on the findings:

Our adult visitors are split 65% male, 35% female.  A huge majority (91%) are local and come from very local postcodes or within a 30 minute drive time.  Many are retired or middle aged.  We receive some visits from international or domestic tourists but very few from people from a black and minority ethnic background.  All our surveys flagged up a significant number of first time visitors but quite a view have visited several times and could be seen as ‘regulars’.  Dwell time in the museum is relatively short and that includes our visiting our temporary exhibitions.  MERL is increasingly popular with families, who again largely come from the local area or somewhere within a 30 minute drive time.  A significant proportion of children coming to events regularly are under seven.  We attract students to the Museum, particular those pursuing Museum Studies modules, 50% of whom are female, with a mix of ages achieved through a balance of mature students, most of them from a broad UK-wide catchment and very few foreign students.  Amongst academics visiting there is a broad gender balance and a wider age range which includes some people with disabilities.  Specialist groups come from further afield and are more or less mixed in age or gender, depending on the subject.

So far, so probably to be expected.  The interesting point that Cultural Consulting Network have picked out relates to motivations for visiting.  Our visitors tend to have a broad interest in museums and learning about rural history, but the number that connect this to an object-related experience is relatively low.  At least half the visitors are looking for a good day out and to share their experience with others.  A few were at the Museum as they were visiting friends and family.  About 10% came from the Royal Berkshire Hospital over the road, often visiting family members who were sick. There was no expectation amongst visitors that they would see anything that would connect with their own personal history.

When talking to volunteers some similar patterns emerged.  It was interesting that the percentages were reversed – more volunteers at MERL are female than male.  They were motivated by the experience they had; working with skilled, friendly and helpful staff.  However, they were not particularly motivated to volunteer because of the subject matter of the collections.

As a Designated museum with nationally important collections and boasting a really object-rich museum gallery, it is puzzling how visitors seem to be missing the connection with the objects.  Cultural Consulting Network are advising that making the experience with objects more vital and relevant must be at the heart of the redevelopment.  The challenge is to identify the stories that provide ‘a way in’ and make that object-rich environment more engaging.  That is for the next stage in our planning…and we’d love to hear your ideas!

 

 

Weekly What’s On: 2nd to 8th December

lecture image 13MERL Annual Lecture: Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP ‘in conversation’ with Sir David Bell, University of Reading Vice-Chancellor
Thursday 5th December
7pm, Great Hall, London Road Campus
Free. Tickets in advance or on the door (Doors open 6pm. Bar and MERL ‘pop-up’ shop available)
Click here for details

 

 

magic carpetToddler time
Friday 6th December, 10-11am, £2 per child, drop-in
Suitable for families with children aged 2-4
Come along to the Museum with your little ones and enjoy rhymes, songs and craft activities. This week we’ll be making super snowman mobiles.

 

 

 

Victorian christmasVictorian Christmas family tour
Sunday 8th December, 2.30-4pm
£3 per child (includes refreshments for accompanying adults)
Booking required
It’s Christmas in 1882 and the Palmer family are spending their first Christmas at their new home, Easthorpe house, with their staff. You are invited to come along and meet Lord and Lady Palmer, their Butler Jerrome, House Keeper Mrs Gough and other members of the household staff. Visitors will learn about Victorian Christmas traditions, play Victorian party games, enjoy seasonal refreshments and make their own Victorian Christmas card. Don’t forget to dress up in your Victorian costume! Watch our trailer on Youtube!

 

HP christmasHuntley & Palmers: a Christmas selection
25 Nov 2013- 5 Jan, 2014
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
This seasonal display in the Staircase hall of the Palmers’ former family home, shows off some of the visual delights in the University’s extensive archive of local biscuit manufacturer, Huntley & Palmers

 

 

Collecting the countryside: 20th century rural cultures
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.

Archive inspiration in the MERL shop

Visitor Services Assistant, Judith Moon, also manages the MERL shop. In this post, Judith reveals the story behind some beautiful new products inspired by our archive collections…

The shop at MERL occupies a small but important part of the reception and introductory area of the museum and the past 8 years has seen the range of products  grow steadily. Our aim is to reflect the MERL collections in the products on offer. We look for local, small suppliers who you’re unlikely to find on the high street. We also sell our own range of household linens, exclusively designed for MERL by Suzy T.  We are delighted that we are now able to sell these beautiful bags, aprons and tea towels in our brand new online shop

Suzy T products

Suzy T products

 

We have also been looking recently for ways to showcase some of the beautiful images that form part of the University’s Special Collections, and 2 years ago we began a journey to find a company that would help us to do just that. We approached a few well known card and stationery companies – names that we’re all familiar with when shopping for good quality fine art greetings cards and MGML (museums and galleries marketing ltd) were one of the companies we approached. They came and spent a day with us looking through the hundreds of beautiful images which form part of the Huntley and Palmers archive held in the Special Collections – they were very, very excited by what they saw and went away armed with lots of ideas for cards and other stationery!

New products

New products

After a little while spent working with the images and archivists at MERL, they came up with a range of unique invitation and thank you notelets as well as small handbag mirrors which reflect the beauty and diversity of just one of our archive collections! The cards and mirrors are now available in the MERL shop   We hope that these new products will soon be added to the small collection of MERL products which can now be bought in our new online shop, so watch this space for news!

New mirrors

New mirrors

As plans for changes to the reception area take shape as part of our Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment project, we are looking at different options for increasing the display space for the shop and the hope is that we will be able to expand and enhance the shop’s range to include more products inspired by our stunning archive collections!

For now, why not try the MERL shop for your Christmas cards and a unique gifts. The shop is open during normal museum opening times, and also on Mondays from 9am to 5pm (Museum closed)