Welcome to the new ‘A Sense of Place’ project blog

The purpose of this blog is to keep you updated with progress on a project called A Sense of Place, which has recently begun at the Museum of English Rural life (MERL).

As you may already know, MERL (part of the University of Reading’s Museums and Special Collections Service) was awarded the largest grant in the first round of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, via the Museums Association, for A Sense of Place.

The aim of the project is to turn the traditional museum catalogue into a more flexible and interactive resource, engaging and connecting audiences with our collections in terms of relevance to geographical, historical and cultural contexts.

MERL, like almost every museum, faces the challenge of how to help visitors interpret their experience of historical artefacts removed from their original contexts. To achieve this we need to explore new forms of user-friendly Information and Communications Technology (ICT) that will help audiences access and make use of our collections data in new and more meaningful ways.

We have already consulted a range of organisations and individuals. These include We are What we Do, the owners and managers of HistoryPin, a scheme that encourages communities to share images of their locality by ‘pinning’ them to virtual maps powered by Google.  We have also been collaborating with iMuse, a local charity that works to support people with disabilities to make better use of ICT.  We will discuss the involvement of such organisations in further blog posts.

A Sense of Place will be delivered through a steering group, consisting of staff, specialist advisers and other stakeholders, including volunteers and museum visitors.

So firstly, let me introduce the team to you:

The project director is MERL’s Curator of Collections & Engagement, Isabel Hughes.  The day to day activity will be led by the Assistant Curator, Ollie Douglas, who will be the line manager for the three project officers, Greta Bertram, Felicity McWilliams and I, Danielle Evans.   It will be the three of us who will generally be keeping you informed with the project news so you will get to know us quite well.  We took up our posts in January 2012 and will work on the project until January 2013.