Cataloguing 20th Century Rural Culture

As mentioned in previous posts, the Sense of Place team have been cataloguing parts of the collection in a number of ways.  We have worked in a chronological order but we have also identified various defined collections to ensure that we can trial some outcomes of the project in a usable way.

Lately we have begun cataloguing some relatively recently acquired objects which has made a pleasant change for us. This material was actively collected as part of the Heritage Lottery funded Collecting 20th Century Rural Culture project which began in 2008 and still continues.  The purpose of the project was to acquire material that builds, decade by decade, a picture of the countryside in the twentieth century.  MERL has been looking for signal items that speak powerfully of their day and illustrate the wider cultural influence of the countryside on English society. There is another fantastic and informative blog on this project, written by Roy Brigden, which is still live on the MERL website, for you to catch up on.

These items could range from works of art that somehow express a mood of the time down to everyday objects that instantly connect with a particular era in the countryside. Perhaps it might be an object with a special story to tell, and an association with an event or a person. For each one, MERL would like to develop an expert narrative to place it in context and construct an overall story.  Many of the objects acquired are actually on permanent display in MERL right now.  Make sure you visit to take a look!

I just wanted to quickly share with you, something which I have been working on today, which beautifully demonstrates what we are trying to achieve with this project.  When we are tidying up the records, we are trying to add detailed geographical data into 3 specific fields of the database; place made, place used and place acquired.  Despite our desire to do this, it is rarely possible to complete all three fields and this is simply because the data is not there to find in the paper records.  In fact, this is the first time I personally have come across an example where I have been able to do so.

This poster from 1931 is advertising a sale at Manor Farm Redbourne, Lincolnshire.  Mr E. Owen Ayre’s lease has expired meaning that everything is up for sale, including all stock and equipment.  The date indicates that this may be due to the agricultural depression of the inter-war years.  Mr Ayre can’t be moving to another farm, because he’s selling all he has, nor is he handing over to a son, because the lease is not being renewed.

The poster was printed or made in Brigg, Lincolnshire, used at and around Manor Farm Redbourne, which according to the poster is 6 miles from Brigg and 17 miles from Lincoln, and acquired from an Antique shop in Bedale, North Yorkshire. We don’t have any information regarding where the poster may have been between 1931 and 2010, when it was acquired, but wouldn’t it be great to find out more!  Of course, if you know anything, do leave us a comment to fill in the gaps.


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