Press release: Arts Council funding brings Reading museums closer to the community

Reading Museum outreachArts Council funding brings Reading museums closer to the community

5th March, 2014

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) and Reading Museum have been awarded £129,150 to collaborate on ‘Reading Engaged’, a new joint project aimed at strengthening engagement with local communities.

MERL, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, has received the award as part the latest round of Arts Council England’s Strategic support fund, announced today.  57 organisations will receive a total of £5,715,338 through the Renaissance Strategic support fund, which aims to support excellence, and the potential for excellence, in a wide range of museums across England.

Over the past year the two museums have worked together to reinforce to the local community the contribution Reading and its citizens made during the First World War. This award strengthens that partnership and sees the museums develop closer ties with community groups through displays, partnerships and events.

New display cases in Reading Museum’s ‘Reading: People and Place’ gallery will allow both museums to experiment with innovative community-generated or volunteer-developed exhibitions. MERL will use these displays to test ideas and new approaches to content creation and engagement for ‘Our Country Lives’ – MERL’s redisplay project.

MERL community eventThe funding will also support audience research that will help both museums develop new programmes that reflect the communities they serve.   Other joint activities will include working together on new merchandise for their Museum shops and on staff and volunteer training.

Kate Arnold-Forster, Director of MERL, said: “The Museum of English Rural Life is delighted to have been given this opportunity to strengthen our strategic partnership with Reading Museum. We are confident that this project will mean that people living in Reading will be able to experience more and better opportunities to enjoy what our museums have to offer. We also want to share what we learn through this project with other museums to help show them the benefits of partnership working.”

Cllr Paul Gittings, Lead Member for Culture and Sport at Reading Borough Council, said “It is fantastic that the University and Council’s museums are working so closely together for the benefit of all Reading’s communities. This further funding success builds upon the foundations of their joint work over the last 12 months and will provide more exciting opportunities for local people to engage with the significant museum collections we have here in Reading”.


For further information, images and interviews, please contact:

Alison Hilton, Marketing Officer at Museum of English Rural Life on 0118 378 8660.

Notes for editors:

The Arts Council announcement and further details can be found on their website


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