Changing Faces: Dismantling the old Museum

Written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer for Our Country Lives.

The Museum has now been closed a little over two weeks, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy behind the scenes. Although visitors to our Archive & Library, steered through the shop to our tranquil Reading Room, may be entirely unaware of the scale of the work being done to strip away the old materials and objects from our galleries.

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The changes within the galleries has been quite dramatic..

The physical work has been a massive logistical challenge and all credit should go to our Conservation Team, which is composed of our Conservator, a couple of staff members and volunteers (plus other colleagues when they have a moment). MERL is fairly unusual for a Museum of its size because we don’t have an offsite Store where we can keep our objects while work is ongoing. Although we considered hiring external storage we didn’t think our large objects, sturdy as they look, would survive the move without being damaged. As such, everything that is small has been removed, recorded and moved upstairs while we play a delicate game of Tetris with the remaining larger objects we cannot carry upstairs, or which we simply don’t have the room for.

So far we've managed to fill two skips with refuse!
So far we’ve managed to fill two skips with refuse!
Objects have been carefully packed into one side of the Museum.
Objects have been carefully packed into one side of the Museum.

As everything gets tidied away, however, it has become very clear that our building, constructed in 2004, is now a blank slate for our redevelopment. Without the objects we are left with grey floors, white walls and open spaces which we are eagerly filling with new stories and themes on English rural life.

Work in the galleries is almost ready for the builders to move into our garden and begin construction on the extensions to the Museum, which we foresee  being finished in Spring 2015. After that our fit-out contractors will take their place and fill the Museum with plinths, cases, signs and objects ready for our re-opening, which may take until early 2016.

Don’t worry though, we will be keeping you regularly updated here on the blog, tracking both the progress of the work within the galleries as well as some of the conservation work that goes on in a project of this size.

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  • Visit us

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    We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to The MERL galleries from Tuesday 18th May.

    Free admission. Please book a timed slot.

    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road

    Reading

    RG1 5EX

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