Shoulder to the Wheel

There is no point, the old adage goes, in reinventing the wheel. Whoever first said that must not have met a wheelwright. The four wheel components – hub, spokes, felloes and rim – have been constantly refined over the centuries.

Shoulder to the Wheel is a collaborative exhibition between the Crafts Study Centre and The MERL, curated by Dr Glenn Adamson, Senior Scholar at the Yale Center for British Art.

To create the exhibition we selected a late Victorian antique wheel collected by The MERL in the 1960s. We then invited three contemporary makers to create a work in its own image.

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Shoulder to the Wheel

There is no point, the old adage goes, in reinventing the wheel. Whoever first said that must not have met a wheelwright. The four wheel components – hub, spokes, felloes and rim – have been constantly refined over the centuries. Shoulder to the Wheel is a collaborative exhibition between the Crafts Study Centre and The […]

Artsmark Journeys Between The MERL and Reading Museum

online exhibition artsmark journeys

In this exhibition, Reading Museum, The Museum of English Rural Life and The University of Reading’s ArtLab invited pupils from two local schools to create their own artistic responses to objects in our collections relating to the theme of food. Both schools are currently working to achieve the Arts Council England’s Artsmark. Below, we invite […]

Farming: The First 12,000 Years

Detail of wooden threshing sled with lava teeth inserted in surface

For the majority of the last 200,000 years, modern humans obtained food by foraging for plants and hunting wild animals. Since farming emerged some 12,000 years ago, it has become the world’s main source of food. It has contributed to the emergence of political movements, social inequalities, land disputes, and even urbanisation. In recent centuries, […]

Smocks, Smocking, Smocked

Smocks have a long and diverse history. Worn to protect the clothing of agricultural laborers when working outside, these cotton or linen garments have since been used for a variety of social and cultural purposes. From folk to fashion, smocks, their infamous smocking, and their detailed embroidery are ingrained in English life, from the rural […]

Welcome Case

Our Welcome Case holds a cross-section of what we have in the collection. Tap on the yellow circles to find out more about individual objects..

Sire.

Maria McKinney’s Sire. is an innovative exploration of selective breeding and genetics in contemporary cattle farming. The series consists of nine large-scale photographic portraits, taken at an Irish stud farm, that depict bulls wearing eccentric, multi-coloured sculptures mounted on their backs. A ‘sire’ is a male parent of an animal. The exhibition is on display […]

Design for play

A playground of grass, children and playground furniture, for the Landscape Institute conference on play

Explore children’s playgrounds, their history and how we design for play in this online exhibition. The 2019 FOLAR symposium coincides with the 90th anniversary of the Landscape Institute, the archive of which is held at The MERL. The images in this exhibition include drawings and designs created by eminent British Landscape Architects, members of the Landscape […]

Stakeholders

online exhibition stakeholders featured basket

The Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading has one of the most significant collections of British basketry in the UK, with over 620 baskets, basketwork objects and basketmaking tools. The Stakeholders project encouraged knowledge and skills sharing between established and up-and-coming basket makers. Each of the participants was commissioned to make […]

Wellbeing and the Countryside

close up of bouquet of flowers from Wellbeing and the Countryside exhibition

We might have romantic notions about country life being beneficial for wellbeing and sometimes this is the case. However, life in the village and on the land can also be characterised by stress and heartache. In this online exhibition you will find just a few examples of different ways in which rural practices impact on physical and […]