Welcome to our January to March programme

It’s a new year at The Museum of English Rural Life, and with it our new programme is here!

Below, join us as The MERL’s Public Programmes Manager, Danielle, introduces all our activities and events coming up in the months ahead.

Reduce, reuse, recycle: Our Green Stories

It has never felt more important for us to engage with the climate crisis than now. We want to use our collections to explore themes related to climate change and sustainability while sharing knowledge and skills with our local community. In the months ahead, exploring these subjects forms the heart of our joint campaign with Reading Museum (together as Museums Partnership Reading): Our Green Stories.

The logo for Our Green Stories, an environmental and sustainability-related campaign by Museums Partnership Reading.

As part of the campaign, we’ve tailored our programme so that there’s something for everyone, approaching climate change from a range of perspectives. Our upcoming exhibition, Sew What?, delves into the history of fast fashion and sustainable production. It is complemented by a choice of workshops, including a sashiko and boro-inspired Japanese stitching masterclass and a young people’s garment upcycling session. Meanwhile, a new group session for school-aged visitors, Green Explorers, launches at the end of January, exploring nature and climate responsibility through building outdoor skills in the museum garden. We will also be running Our Green Stories tours throughout the programme, illuminating histories of sustainability in our galleries and collections, and introducing a new green-themed gallery trail.

To match this, we’re also exploring green subjects throughout our half term activities, which all relate to the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Explore everything coming up in the half term on our half term page.

Continuing to take care

In 2022, our programme focused on the theme of CARE, looking at how we care for the communities around us and the ways in which we care for our collections and our archives. In many ways, Our Green Stories builds upon this, as we seek to extend care not just to our local community but to the world beyond – present and future.

We loved delivering the CARE programme, and we are delighted to be carrying on many of these events into 2023. We are continuing our Mums and Babies Yoga classes and Tai Chi classes with Sport in Mind, plus reworking our Chatty Café and Board Saturday sessions into the new monthly An Afternoon at the Museum, featuring chat, crafts, and play.

We are excited to be working with our friends at Compass Recovery College once again to deliver a new range of activities for people experiencing mental health difficulties, this time focusing on kintsugi techniques for repairing books. And we’ll be introducing young learners to the joy of books and book binding at our Bookfest event in March, following on from World Book Day.

Tai Chi at The MERL.

Interpreting the collections

The object collections and archives in our care, held throughout the University of Reading (our parent organisation), inform and inspire many kinds of research. This is especially true as our site is not just home to The MERL collections but also houses the University of Reading’s Art Collections and Special Collections.

In the months ahead, we’re looking forward to several events featuring academics who have used our collections in their work. On 2 February, we’re hosting researchers from the University of Reading and beyond for the launch of A History of English Georgic Writing (Cambridge University Press, 2022), a historical survey of the literature of rural working lives and landscapes. Later in the month, we will be welcoming Dame Professor Marina Warner to the museum for the launch of her memoir, Inventory of a Life Mislaid. Marina recently presented some of her family papers to the University of Reading’s book and publishing collections, relating to her father’s work in establishing a branch of WH Smith’s in Cairo after the Second World War.

Black and white photograph of a man riding a heavy horse.
This photograph, taken by Eric Guy, is featured on the cover of 'A History of English Georgic Writing'. (MERL P FW PH2/H60/3)

Find out more

We hope that there’s something for everyone in this programme, plus all our permanent galleries, our garden, and the many treats in our shop and café.

We’d love to see you at the museum, and you can find out everything you need about planning your free visit to The MERL on our visit us pages.

Have a question? Contact us today! We’d be very happy to help.

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