Collecting 20th Century Rural Cultures

Date: 1900-1999Extent: 431 objects

This four-year project (2008-2012) was supported by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £95,000. The purpose was to acquire material that builds, decade by decade, a picture of the countryside in the 20th century. The project looked for signal items that speak powerfully of their day and illustrate the wider cultural influence of the countryside on English society.  

As well as filling in gaps in the ‘timeline’ of objects at MERL, the project has enriched the collections with objects that have a greater focus on ideas, opinions and perceptions within and about rural places and people. A major output of the project was a temporary exhibition which can be loaned to other institutions. It draws out five themes – interactions, inspiration, representations, modernisation, and conflict.

The collection consists of over 400 objects, ranging from Glastonbury Festival programmes and Corgi toys to Arts and Crafts furniture and industrial chemical advertising signs. 

More information 

To find out about the objects acquired as part of the project, go to the Collecting Rural Cultures project blog.

The objects are also catalogued on the online database. Search using the phrase ‘collecting 20th century’ 

What can I see


Domestic Flowerpot

51 Voices


Elite Cow

Forces For Change


Death to Pests

51 Voices


Picnic Basket

A Year On the Farm

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