Our Country Lives: Supporting You Day

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

My mind has been focused on one particular question since arriving at MERL: how do you display rural life?

Other equally pertinent questions for us are: Who is our audience? How can we appeal to wider groups? What is the core message of the Museum of English Rural Life?

These are the main issues which we are grappling with in these early days of Our Country Lives. We began with a broad idea of what we want to do, and we are now gradually narrowing down our ideas and expectations, so that we can finish with a focused new display which keeps our current visitors happy but also entices new people to come and learn about English rural life, and participate with the museum in projects and events.

Family consultations at the MERL Village Fete 2013

Family consultations at the MERL Village Fete 2013

Determining those people and communities who would not usually visit MERL was the focus of a meeting with our consultants last week, but we have already been working with volunteers and our current audiences to find out who our visitors are and what they want. For instance, if you came with your family to the village fete this year then you may have been asked to complete a questionnaire. The results from this consultation are already having a real effect on the direction in which MERL is heading with Our Country Lives.

Another audience which we want to hear from is the student and staff community of the University of Reading. Myself and MERL’s Marketing Officer Alison will be at this year’s Supporting You Day, and will be available all day to let you know about the museum but also asking how we could do better as a service to university staff and students.

Whether you think we need more seminars and lectures, or should advertise better on campus, we would like to know what would make you visit MERL, or what is currently stopping you. We will be located in the Palmer Building, most probably in the Reception, so come and say hello!

OCL at the Village Fete 2013

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

The MERL Village Fete is only a few days away, and we are already preparing our hi-vis jackets, gazebos, bunting and scones, as well as harnessing an army of volunteers and staff to ensure everything runs smoothly.

The focus of this year’s Fete is on rural crafts and traditions, and we have an exciting bunch of craftspeople either demonstrating or offering opportunities to make your own crafts. We have a wide array of exhibitors this year, meaning you can taste some cakes while learning about your family history, or feel the sparks from some blacksmithing to the sound of the Walham St Lawrence Silver Band. Then there’s also the hog roast (with a vegetarian option), locally brewed beer, leather-working, Jenny Halsteadwoodworking demonstrations, and of course, morris dancing, a raffle, and a cake competition – plus much, much more.

Enjoying the entertainment at last year's Village Fete

Enjoying the entertainment at last year’s Village Fete

As well as all these options there will also be a chance for you to influence the future of the Museum of English Rural Life. We are at a stage where we are keen to learn about what ‘rural life’ and ‘the countryside’ mean to our visitors, and whether our plans for the museum are on the right track or whether you think we are missing something. The questionnaires are very short, but your responses will be a huge help to us. A team of volunteers, myself and a few others will be at the fete gently persuading visitors to give us their views on what they think of the museum, and how it could be improved. We can also tell you about our plans for Our Country Lives, and answer any questions you may have about the redevelopment, so please come and see us! Our gazebo will be in the middle of the field, sandwiched between the Facepainting and the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research!