Weekly What’s On: 3rd to 9th February

You can find full details of all our forthcoming events and activities in our What’s On and MERL Families guides, which are now available from the Museum or to download from our website You can also see all events on our online calendar


Stakeholders smallMERL Seminar series: Untouchable England
Basketry skills as intangible cultural heritage
Greta Bertram, Project Officer, Museum of English Rural Life
Tuesday 4th February, 1pm
Craft skills are recognised by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. Using the example of basketry, Greta will examine the idea of heritage craft, explore values that basketmakers ascribe to their work, and look to the future of intangible craft skills. Followed by a ‘pop-up’ display of baskets from the MERL collections in the object store,a nd a chance to talk about MERL’s current ‘Stakeholders’ project.

For full details of the series, visit our website


Ricordate-croppedItaly at war: a selection from the archives
Tuesday 4th February to 30th March
NB Due to staff sickness, the opening of this exhibition has now been postponed until Tues 11th February. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Staircase hall, MERL
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
Highlights from the University’s fascinating records relating to Italian history. 




Black white posterBlack/White
Tuesday 4th to 7th February
Free, drop-in, normal museum opening times
An artistic intervention in the Museum galleries by University of Reading art students.





Spectacular 2008 117Guided tour
Wednesdays, Saturdays and 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.




Paper plate owlToddler time
Friday 7th February, 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’re making paper plate owls!




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.







Volunteers’ Voice #4: Summer Volunteers

written by Rob Davies, Volunteer Coordinator.

It’s summer and for us at MERL it is a very busy time for us. Our varied host of family activities means that we are very busy with a large footfall of visitors who would otherwise be at school. This is an excellent opportunity for younger visitors to explore the museum and we provide an affordable, friendly and safe environment for families. However, this does provide an added strain on the staff and volunteers of the family activities programme.

Thank you to our summer volunteers!

Thank you to our summer volunteers!

In preparation for the summer activities I recruit a team of volunteers specifically for the summer; of course, I invite regular volunteers to participate as well but in order to relieve the strain on them I have the summer activities team ready too. When the summer is over I always ensure there is another project or role that the summer volunteers can feed into if they would like to continue volunteering with us.

We have a large student body within the volunteer team, which is thanks to our obvious connections with the University of Reading but also down to the current climate where volunteering is seen as part of student life. This is great during term time but leaves a hole when it comes to the holidays, and I counter this hole with other students returning to Reading for the summer – it is a continuous cycle.

The summer team is comprised of student and community volunteers, reflecting the volunteer programme as a whole. These volunteers are often people who have experience of working or volunteering with children or those who wish to gain such experience. It is a great opportunity for people to experience learning and family activity sessions within a museum environment, volunteer alongside museum professionals and develop excellent skills.

I would recommend inviting the volunteers to meet each other first, cover what each session will entail, plan arrivals and ensure that everyone is aware of the health and safety practice. All this will help ensure that the activities go as planned.

Without the strong and enthusiastic team of volunteers we would not be able to deliver such an extensive range of holiday activities. Volunteers will also be integral to our future plans for MERL in Our Country Lives, in particular because of the invaluable input and opinions of volunteers on what we can do with the museum.