The Landscape of Housing

In 2022 The FOLAR symposium held at The MERL explored how Landscape Architecture worked in alliance with the design and planning of post-war housing. This exhibition explores these themes by highlighting some of the key Landscape Architects of this time, using documents and drawings from the Landscape Institute collections held in our Special Collections.

Unpicking the past

Jones Family CS - featured image for sewing memories exhibition
Over the past year, we have had many a conversation with individuals from across Reading and the surrounding area. These conversations have highlighted the role of the sewing machine in their lives, in the lives of their friends and families and, as the stories were shared and the laughter flowed, it drew attention to the [...]

Migrant workers: hidden rural mobilities

Image of daffodil pickers showing how UK farming relies on seasonal migrant workers

UK farming relies on seasonal migrant workers to plant, harvest and pack fruit and vegetables. Over 90% of seasonal workers in the UK are migrants. Yet, they tend to be a hidden community across rural spaces. In previous exhibitions—on raspberries and strawberries—illustrations by Sarah Hannis showed the work of migrants and their role in food […]

Our Green Stories in the Galleries

The logo for Our Green Stories

Welcome to Our Green Stories, a Museums Partnership Reading campaign exploring climate change, sustainability, and biodiversity loss through collections. This online journey is designed to help us think about what we can do to care for the planet, both individually and collectively. The histories, practices, technologies, challenges, and solutions revealed as part of Our Green […]

In Conversation with Bill Hooks

Detail showing domestic pruning knives inspired by billhooks sitting on a table top surface.
This exhibition features a series of five object sets made by artist Alice Blackstock and designer/maker Philip Crewe. These investigate the making and meaning of a tool called a billhook. This 2019 collaboration began with a visit to see billhooks held at The MERL. It led to the creation of work exploring loss of purpose, [...]

Fast Fashion: Then and Now

A Singer sewing machine.
Fast fashion is a business model for the clothing industry which is firmly embedded within Western culture. It produces cheap, accessible clothing that mimics the latest catwalk trends, and ensures that production costs remain as low as possible. At a time when the cost of living continues to rise, it is no surprise that the [...]


A beekeeper's suit
People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority group, making up nearly 20% of the population. While many people are born with a condition, anyone can become disabled at any time. And yet, in so many contexts, disabled inclusivity is lacking. People’s needs are not anticipated, asked about, or accommodated for. But the disabled label [...]

Lantern Slides of the Open Spaces Society

A group of beech trees and vegetation on the edge of a pond.

The Open Spaces Society (OSS) was founded in 1865. It is the oldest national society in Britain campaigning for the preservation of commons, public paths, and open spaces. The Society has contributed to saving public access to many of our best-loved landscapes and rights of way across the country. The Open Spaces Society Collection at […]