The Museum of English Rural Life is owned and managed by the University of Reading. We were established by academics in the Department of Agriculture in 1951 to capture and record the rapidly changing countryside following World War II. The Museum is based on Redlands Road in a building originally designed by Sir Alfred Waterhouse in 1880 for local businessman Alfred Palmer of the Huntley & Palmer biscuit company. The house then became St Andrews Hall of residence in 1911, and in 2005 a modern extension was built onto the house and we moved in.
The Museum was awarded £1.8million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in 2014 for the redevelopment of the galleries, reopening in October 2016. The redevelopment strengthens and renews our links with agriculture as well as enhancing our position in supporting engagement opportunities for students and academics across a wide variety of disciplines, nationally and internationally.
We use our diverse and surprising collection to explore how the skills and experiences of farmers and craftspeople, past and present, can help shape our lives now and into the future. We have worked alongside rural people, local communities and specialist researchers to create displays and activities that engage with important debates about the future of food and the ongoing relevance of the countryside to all our lives.