Students: apply for a landscape research bursary before the end of February

Why should I apply?

Our landscape collections are pretty special.

Read this overview of our landscape collections or search our combined library, archive and object catalogue.

Take a look at reasons to use our landscape collections in your research and topic and resource ideas.

Highlights from our Landscape Institute Collections

Highlights from our Landscape Institute Collections

But could I apply?

Are you:

A) A taught undergraduate or postgraduate student?

B) Studying landscape architecture, design or management?  History, geography, architecture, environmental science, ecology or design?

C) Desperate to impress your dissertation supervisors?

D) Reading this before 28 Feb 2017?

Then we look forward to receiving your application!  (Just ask us if you want to check you are eligible).

If you are a taught student in part or full-time higher education, you can apply for one of landscape student travel bursaries.

We welcome your innovative ideas on how you will use our collections in your research.

How do I apply?

The purpose of the student travel bursaries is to enable students to access collections held at Reading related to landscape, including landscape design, management and architecture.

We are offering 2 bursaries of £150 each.

Applications will be by email to merl@reading.ac.uk (please put “Landscape Bursary” in the subject line).  Applications will be invited from any student in part or full-time higher education.

Interested applicants should submit a CV, and a short statement (max 400 words) outlining their interest in and current work on landscape, stating how the bursary would be spent and how it would be beneficial to their studies.  Applicants should identify those materials in the archive that would be of most benefit to them.

Timetable

28 February 2017 – applications close

31 March 2017 – successful candidates announced

Any work will need to be carried out and monies claimed by 31 July 2017.

 

Please feel free to get in touch with our Reading Room if you have any questions. We look forward to welcoming you and telling you more about our landscape collections.  

Written by Project Librarian: Claire Wooldridge

Discovering the Landscape: Post-War Landscape Architecture project awarded Academic Engagement Bursary

We are delighted to announce that Amber Roberts has been awarded our Landscape Academic Engagement Bursary.

Great West House, Michael Brown Collection (AR BRO)

Great West House, Michael Brown Collection (AR BRO)

Amber will be using our Michael Brown Collection to analyse key design theories and projects in the development of the profession of landscape architecture, 1945-1975.  The project will focus on post-war modernist Britain and the international outreach of British landscape architecture.  The post-war era saw significant changes to the practice of landscape architecture, such as the focus on new towns, motorways and industrial sites.

Redditch New Town, Michael Brown (AR BRO)

Redditch New Town, Michael Brown (AR BRO)

Amber’s project will highlight the potential of our Michael Brown Collection whilst shedding light on developments in the field of landscape architecture in the post war period.

Michael Brown Collection (AR BRO)

Michael Brown Collection (AR BRO)

Michael Brown (1923-1996) was a landscape architect and urban designer known for his limited use of materials which produced distinctive landscapes.  The collection contains drawings, slides and photographs.

Thank you to everyone who applied for the bursary.  We received some great applications and it was a tough decision.  We wish Amber all the best with her research and we are looking forward to keeping you up to date with her progress.

 

 

 

Students: your landscape archive needs you

If you are an undergraduate student, don’t forget you have until the end of February 2017 to apply for a bursary to support your use of our landscape collections.  Click here for more information.

Show Garden, Michael Brown Collection (AR BRO)

Show Garden, Michael Brown Collection (AR BRO)

Please feel free to get in touch with our Reading Room if you have any questions. We look forward to welcoming you and telling you more about our landscape collections.  

Written by Project Librarian: Claire Wooldridge

Discovering the Landscape: how to use our collections in your research

Are you an undergraduate, postgraduate, independent researcher or at school?

Are you studying history, geography, architecture, environmental science, ecology or design?

Then come and use our landscape collections in your research (if you’re an undergraduate apply for one of our landscape student bursaries).  We’ve even got topic and resource ideas listed here.

So why use our landscape collections?  And how?

3 reasons to use our landscape collections:

1. National significance

MERL now holds the best collection of 20th century landscape archives and library material in the UK.  Our Landscape Institute collections hold everything from plans, drawings, slides, books, journals and pamphlets to the LI’s institutional archive containing all of their corporate records, such as minutes and membership files.

So if you are interested in a particular project (from anywhere across the UK), a specific landscape architect (maybe Jellicoe, Crowe, Colvin?), the Landscape Institute itself or the emergence of landscape architecture as a profession then we have what you need.

Lots of our other collections support landscape studies too, such as The Land Settlement Association and the Open Spaces Society.

AR JEL DO1 S2/20

Geoffrey Jellicoe collection, Shute House, AR JEL DO1 S2/20

2.  Explore your archive

Every day we inhabit built and natural environments.  The landscape is all around us, all the time, shaping and informing our lives.

You can reveal all that our landscape collections have to offer by using them in your research.  You can draw out previously unknown themes, connections and discoveries.

We house the collections, keeping them safe and making them available to you.

But only you can bring them alive by using them in your research.

For the MERL and Special Collections teams to thrive, we need tea.  (Never near the collections, of course).  For our landscape collections to shine, they need to be accessed and used.

So be inspired by the National Archives Explore Your Archive week: come and find our more about our landscape collections.

Colvin inscription to the Jellicoe's, in the front cover of a 2nd edition of her Land and Landscape.

Colvin inscription to the Jellicoe’s, in the front cover of a 2nd edition of her Land and Landscape.

 

3. Visual delights!

Our Reading Room visitors are greeted by our beautiful peacock stained glass window

Our Reading Room visitors are greeted by our beautiful peacock stained glass window

We host a lot of reader’s in our wonderful Reading Room.  So we know that you could spend many studious hours looking at reports, minutes or papers.

All very good research that is too.

But you could be looking at this stuff:

(just saying)

Highlights from our Landscape Institute Collections

Highlights from our Landscape Institute Collections

 

How to search and access our landscape collections

We hope you have been inspired to use our landscape collections.  Here’s how you can find out more:

Students: your landscape archive needs you

If you are an undergraduate student, don’t forget you have until the end of February 2017 to apply for a bursary to support your use of our landscape collections.  Click here for more information.

Please feel free to get in touch with our Reading Room if you have any questions. We look forward to welcoming you and telling you more about our landscape collections.  

Written by Project Librarian: Claire Wooldridge

Rip Roaring Reading Room News: Full opening from Monday 28 September 2015

Our Reading Room

Our Reading Room

Great news everyone! We have extended our Reading Room opening hours. Up until now, although you have been able to visit our wonderful Reading Room Monday-Friday, 9-5, we have operated a restricted service on a Monday. This meant that, on a Monday, we opened later (10am) and we were unable to retrieve material from our store.

But we are delighted to say that from (and including) Monday 28 September – our Reading Room will be ready for your visit and fully accessible, open and with staff making trips to the store to retrieve material throughout the day:

Every Monday to Friday – 9am to 5pm!

Retrievals take place until 4.15pm, and we collect all closed access material in at 4.45pm.

(Allowing for a brief hiatus in retrievals from the store while our Reading Room staff take a hard earned lunch break between 1-2pm)

Our Reading Room

Our Reading Room

So why not pay us a visit?  You can find more information on using our Reading Room here.  If you have any queries or would like to order up material in advance, you can contact us at merl@reading.ac.uk.

Discovering an unknown opera

With such vast and varied collections, we sometimes come across hidden treasures. Adam Lines, Reading Room Supervisor, tells us about a discovery he made recently.

One of the most invigorating aspects of my role as Reading Room Supervisor is the wealth of knowledge about the collection that I accumulate on a daily basis. Often researchers draw my attention to the significance of items in the collections through their enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, their subject.

A few weeks ago I received an email from an academic eager to see the original manuscript of a mid-eighteenth-century performance piece called ‘The Charnwood Opera’. They supplied the file number, D MS 1093/12/19, and I set about retrieving the manuscript. When I looked up the file number in the catalogue, the description offered was simply ‘documents related to enclosure’ – nothing, at first glance, directly referenced ‘The Charnwood Opera’. Upon finding the folder I found an envelope and as I carefully emptied its contents I discovered the manuscript I was looking for.

'The Charnwood Opera' - D MS 1093/12/19

‘The Charnwood Opera’ – D MS 1093/12/19

Measuring approximately 39×31 cm, this manuscript is the only known surviving copy of ‘The Charnwood Opera’. It is dated 1752 and was written by an unknown author. The piece was written as a protest against a local landowner, William Herrick, who attempted to enclose areas of common land in Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire and develop rabbit warrens for private use. It is an entirely unique piece of contemporary evidence in song of the rural struggles against enclosure. The manuscript suggests that it might have been performed at a tavern in Charnwood Forest known as the Holly Bush.

'The Charnwood Opera' - D MS 1093/12/19

‘The Charnwood Opera’ – D MS 1093/12/19

Although set in the immediate context of William Herrick’s attempts to enclose common land in Charnwood Forest, at the time the piece was written around half of the villages in the county had been enclosed and ‘The Charnwood Opera’ encapsulates this county-wide unrest. During the early eighteenth century, nine out of ten people lived and worked in the countryside. For them, the difference between cultivated (private) and uncultivated (common) land was more meaningful than that between the town and the countryside. For the commoners, enclosure meant becoming labourers and working for wages whilst their traditional livelihood of catching rabbits was outlawed. ‘The Charnwood Opera’, through a mixture of seven songs and dialogue, plays out the events of the confrontation between warreners and commoners. When a bribe offered by the gentry fails, many of the commoners are arrested and the landlord turns to hired thugs to pacify them. The piece concludes with the commoners anticipating further troubles ahead.

'The Charnwood Opera' - D MS 1093/12/19

‘The Charnwood Opera’ – D MS 1093/12/19

How did a performance piece related to the enclosure of land in Leicestershire find its way to Reading?

The manuscript is one of hundreds of documents that form part of the William Tate (1902-1968) archive. He was a much celebrated historian and antiquarian, called many things from a ‘scholar’ to a ‘maverick’. He had many academic interests, but his main passion was for the history of enclosure in England and he spent over thirty years researching and compiling the details of enclosure for all English counties. What Pevsner is to buildings, Tate is to enclosure acts. Much of his collection of papers was deposited at the University of Reading by his wife after his death, including many manuscripts of unpublished works.

And it was this very archive that presented the treasure I discovered tucked away in an envelope. It is thought that William Tate first discovered it when a bookseller in Nottingham alerted him to its presence when he found it loose in a book. Whether Tate was aware of its significance is unknown, but he was clearly fascinated enough by it to save it.

You can find out more about the William Tate archive here.

Thank you to Gerald Porter for sharing his research and for shedding light on such a fascinating piece of rural history.

Porter, Gerald and Tiusanen, Jukka (2006) ‘Performing Resistance to the New Rural Order: An Unpublished Ballad Opera and the Green Song,’ The Eighteenth Century, 47 (2): pp.202-232.

 

Focus on collections: Bikes & Cycling

Our Social Media and Collections intern, Lisa, has been researching bike-related materials in our collection to coincide with Bike Week…

This week it’s Bike Week which aims to promote cycling, encouraging people to make it part of their everyday lives. Not only it is it great fun and a healthier way to travel to work, it’s also an excellent way to explore the countryside. A large number of events are happening across the country this week to promote cycling, in particular cycling to work as let’s face it, cycling in the sunny rays alongside a colleague to work seems far more appealing than being in a stuffy car stuck in traffic.

As a result, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore the collections here at MERL to see what interesting objects relating to bikes the museum has to offer. Scrolling through the online catalogue, it was clear that MERL holds a huge collection relating to bikes, from bicycle lamps to cycling maps, as well as a boneshaker bicycle; I was certainly not disappointed!

2010.159-2

MERL 2010/159

 

One interesting item that caught my eye was the Bacon’s Country Map of Kent which was number two in the series and sold for seven pence. Having been produced between 1906 and 1910 by G. W. Bacon & Co, this map highlights that people were beginning to view the countryside in a different light at this time. There was an increasing interest to explore the countryside and see what it had to offer, from its rolling hills to flowering meadows. The idea of escaping the busy city and enjoying the fresh country air with its beautiful views was popular, therefore maps such as this one would have come in handy to find picturesque cycle roots through the countryside.

75.30

MERL 75/30

With MERL being home to one of the biggest basket collections in the country, from delivery baskets to fruit baskets, I was on the lookout to find a bicycle basket. Like so many people today, I can’t cycle anywhere without my trusty bicycle basket. This basket that I came across was actually made in Reading by George Frost of Spencers Wood in 1975. Made from willow that came from Taunton in Somerset, along with its leather straps and buckles that allows it to attach to the bicycle, it looks like the perfect accessory to any bicycle and a great way of carrying a picnic.

Finally, my favourite object that I came across was the corn dolly penny farthing bicycle leaning beside a lamp post. Originally made by Alec Coker for a competition at the Lambeth Corn Dolly Gathering in Cambridgeshire, it is clear that a lot of work went into making it. Corn dollies were once used for ritual purposes, but from the 1950’s great efforts were made to preserve the craft after the ritual associations with corn dolly’s faded away.

 

86_145[1]

MERL 86/145/1-2

From looking into the collections here at MERL, the museum has some very interesting ojects relating to the topic of bikes which Bike Week has highlighted. Cycling is a great way to explore the countryside and keep fit, therefore I will certainly be taking full adavantage of my bike this summer!

 

The Cheese Curry Experiment

It is difficult to know quite how to categorise this post by Project Officer, Felicity McWilliams, but it’s all in the name of research for one of our new galleries…promise!

Given that it is, apparently, British Cheese Week, today seems an appropriate time to share with you the results of a little experiment I carried out a few weeks back. Anybody who came along to our cheese-themed Museums at Night event last month will have seen copies of recipes from a 1970s cookery book produced by the Cheese Information Service. The book is called Make a Meal of Cheese, and I came across it whilst researching for an area of the new museum galleries which will focus on farmhouse cheesemaking. Organisations like the Cheese Information Service and the Milk Marketing Board used such publications (and the promotion of concepts such as the ‘ploughman’s lunch’ in pubs) to encourage consumers to eat more British cheese. It’s fascinating – the authors really try to convince you that any recipe can be improved by the addition of cheddar cheese.

Cheese7

Some of the recipes actually sound okay – leeks wrapped in bacon covered in cheese sauce, for example – but many more are distinctly suspicious. I decided to test one, and was immediately drawn to the implausible cheddar cheese curry. It sounded (and looked) terrible, but I was willing to give it a chance.

Here are the assembled ingredients. It was quite enjoyable measuring everything in advance into little bowls – I could pretend I was a TV chef. As you can see, other than a chopped onion there is a distinct lack of vegetables in this curry. As the recipe points out though, you can make this almost entirely with store cupboard ingredients, so it is convenient.

Cheese1

Step one: fry onions in butter. So far so good – fried onions smell delicious and I was starting to think that this might just be okay.

Step two: add flour and curry powder. Looks a bit weird, and I came to the realisation that I was effectively making a roux.

Cheese5

Step three: add vegetable stock. It’s like their recipe researcher thought to themselves, ‘Curry sauce? Well, I know how to make a sauce – adding curry powder will make it a curry sauce, right?’

Step four: add seasoning (like that’s going to save this dish), sultanas and chutney. I suppose the sultanas added interest but the chutney gave a vaguely unpleasant sliminess to the sauce.

Cheese6

Step five: add cheddar cheese. It felt wrong, even as I was doing it. I stirred it round a bit to coat it all in sauce and tried to spot when it looked like it might be starting to melt.

Cheese4

Step six: serve, 1970s style, in a ring of rice.

Cheesecurry2

You may be impressed, or horrified, to know that I did eat the curry – and I don’t mean just a small taste. I actually served this to my parents for Sunday lunch. Mom, who had assisted in the preparation, was as sceptical as me but my Dad tried hard to be enthusiastic, saying ‘I’m sure that, since you made it, it will be delicious’. He did sound like he was trying to convince himself.

The verdict? I’d really hoped that this dish would surprise me, that somehow, despite looking revolting and being formed of a strange amalgamation of ingredients and cooking techniques, it would actually taste pleasant. Alas, it was revolting. The sauce was slimy, without any real flavour as the curry powder just seemed to sit on the surface. And cheddar cheese does not taste good in curry. It’s consistency and sharp tang (we used mature) clashed horribly with the sauce. Perhaps we should have used a mild cheese, but the sauce was tasteless enough as it was.

The rice was alright though.

Once the taste of this curry recedes far enough into my memory for me to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad really, I plan to attempt another recipe from Make a Meal of Cheese. Do comment and let me know if you have any interesting cheese-based recipes – good or bad, and the weirder the better!

Focus on Collections: Dragons

To celebrate St George’s Day we decided to delve into the object collection for dragons.

IMG_8820Dragons are normally something you would keep well away from Museum stores. Messy eaters, far too large and prone to setting things on fire, they are possibly the least ideal animal to have in a storehouse full of dry baskets, wooden tools and straw samples.

IMG_8822

And yet, some curator long ago saw fit to let at least a few dragons in. Our first three are fairly manageable, being altogether about ten centimetres long, made of corn and being – on closer inspection – actually quite cute. Modelled on the fierce beasts of mythology, these corn dolly dragons made by Doris Johnson appear to be aquatic rather than airborne, with only two legs, a spiral tail and no real wings to speak of.

IMG_8834

Our next dragons are similarly flammable but, since they were made in 1787, have managed to survive. They are known as Housen, and are pieces of decoration meant to be attached to a horse’s collar. They both depict a pair of dragons in the centre, mouths set against a globe. The style of both pieces is very reminiscent of Nordic designs, and yet these two pieces were collected from Twyford. Their origin is obscure, but they may have developed from the guard attached to the front of the saddle to protect the groins of a knight in armour, which at least gives them a flavour of St George.

The lack of wings, however, make us wonder if these even do depict dragons. Are they in fact heavily stylised lions?

IMG_8841

Discovering the Landscape #13: From garden space to masterplan

Seminar series round up: Written by Claire Wooldridge, Project Senior Library Assistant: Landscape Institute

Our captivating landscape inspired seminar series has drawn to an end.  We’re delighted the series has been so well attended; a testament to the speakers and to the fascinating subject matter.

If you attended any of the talks (or were unable to) and want to find out more, you can get in touch with us by emailing merl@reading.ac.uk.

Highlighted below are a few of the items from our collections which were mentioned in the talks:

Archives:

Audience for LI seminar

Audience for LI seminar

As part of ‘From garden space to masterplan: the Landscape Institute collections at MERL’ our deputy archivist Caroline Gould

and landscape architect Annabel Downs gave an insightful overview of the history of the Landscape Institute and to the collections here at MERL.

Our Landscape Institute webpages are a really useful starting point for research into our collections and as a source of background information and handlists for specific collections, such as the Brenda Colvin collection, Geoffrey Jellicoe collection and Preben Jakobsen collection (which Karen Fitzsimon used in her talk entitled ‘Rediscovering Preben Jakobsen’.

Our existing MERL archival holdings also hold many treasures to the student of landscape.  Johnathan Brown, in his talk entitled ‘Changing landscapes of farming and estates after the First World War’, used several images from the extensive MERL photographic collection to great effect.  A full listing of our existing MERL archives can be viewed using the MERL archives A-Z.

 

1000 books cataloguedLibrary:

The library of the Landscape Institute is being integrated into our existing MERL library, further adding to areas of strength within the collection, on subjects such as domestic gardening, land use and the environment and conservation issues.  Reference books within the MERL library are a great place to start research into all things landscape.

We were able to show case our Gertrude Jekyll books in a pop up exhibition following Richard Bisgrove’s talk such as Gardens for Small Country Houses, Colour in the Flower Garden and Home and Garden.

The talk from Giles Pritchard and Barnaby Wheeler entitled ‘Reading Abbey Revealed’ was another perfect opportunity for us to delve into our Special Collections and display some of our rare books relating to Reading Abbey.  We were also to display images from slides from the Moore Piet + Brookes collection relating to their work on the Reading Town Centre Masterplan and pedestrianisation.

The pictures below from Professor Timothy Mowl’s intriguing talk on ‘Pleasure and the Regency Garden’ enabled us to showcase some wonderful books featuring beautiful plates of the gardens at our very own Whiteknights (such as Hofland’s A descriptive account of the mansion and gardens of White-knights).

Pop up exhibition in our Staircase Hall following an LI seminar

Pop up exhibition in our Staircase Hall following an LI seminar

Plate of Whiteknights from Hofland

Plate of Whiteknights from Hofland

As above for more information please contact us on merl@reading.ac.uk, visit our LI webpages or search our online catalogue.

To continue discovering the landscape, FOLAR (Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading) are holding a study day on Brenda Colvin (with a talk from Hal Moggridge, our archivists and a pop up exhibition) at MERL on Saturday 21 March.  See here for more information or contact folar1234@gmail.com to book.

Research post: X marks the spot

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We’ve all been very busy researching nine new galleries for the Our Country Lives redevelopment, covering everything from wagon construction to rural fashion. What caught our eye recently, however, was a one-way, horse-drawn Butterfly plough.

While delving into our accession files for its measurements we found this interesting little map tucked into a sheaf of correspondence (below). It depicts a working farm in Polventon, Cornwall where our plough came from. It shows a house, barn, stables, a waggon and cart hovel, a ‘new building’ and a chapel. It also has some queries – such as one building labelled ‘bullock house? Pigs?’. I doubt we’ll ever know which.

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The correspondence also revealed that the farmer used this horse-drawn plough to fill in the gaps which his tractor-drawn plough could not reach, such as by the hedges, showing the perseverance of old technology where practical. The curator has marked two X’s on the map where two ploughs were found in hedges (including the one in our collection). Not exactly buried treasure to most people, but valuable to us nonetheless.

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What is also particularly interesting for us is the inclusion of a floor-plan of the farmhouse (below), labeling familiar objects in our collection such as settles. Considering our plans for the redeveloped galleries include a focus on ‘Hearth and Home’, exploring both the romanticised view of the cottage and the too-often grim reality, these plans may well shape our interpretation and object layout.

tumblr_nht7trXTes1tj5ey1o2_1280 (1)

The farmhouse still exists in the exact same shape, although the ‘waggon hovel’ has since been converted into a garage. No longer used as part of a farm, you can rent out the house for a self-catering holiday, which is itself an interesting comment on the changes in farming and rural real estate over the past fifty years.

Hopefully we’ll have more interesting things crop up as we research over the next few weeks!