A Land Down Under

Anthropologist and Collections Volunteer Paul Trawick continues his journey of subsoil discovery, exploring the role of land drainage on English farms. In his first post – What Lies Beneath? – he introduced us to these little-known systems. In this installment he elaborates further on their history and how they work… We have already seen how […]

Our newest exhibition is causing quite the buzz

Fiona Melhuish (UMASCS Librarian) writes about our new exhibition on the fascinating Cowan Bee Collection at The MERL: Last year, we were very pleased to report that The MERL had acquired the Cowan Bee Collection, a library of 1,800 volumes of books, pamphlets and journals relating to bees and beekeeping, which has been described as […]

Time to Picnic: Top 10 tips from The MERL

Picnics. Sandwiches. Cake. Slightly too warm lemonade. Wasps. Picnics are a staple of the summer. They’re a great way to get outside and to experience all that the countryside has to offer. Indeed people have been enjoying eating outside for hundreds of years. In the late 1600s the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall sold cold meats […]

How do you give medicine to a horse?

Now that June has indeed passed, taking with it the rain and clouds, it’s time to look back at a few of the fascinating objects that have made their way into the Museum’s collection in the last month. With eight new objects in total, we have selected three to look at in a little more […]

What lies beneath?

Anthropologist and Collections Volunteer Paul Trawick has been delving into the role of field drains on English farms. These hidden gems offer an ingenious and indigenous way to reclaim ground, improve topsoil, tame groundwater, and achieve sustainable crop yields. But few of us even know they are there. In this, the first of several posts, […]

Get out … into the countryside

Have you noticed that the days are staying lighter for longer? Is spring just around the corner? Does the change in season make you think about spending time outside? If you are one of the 53 million people in the UK who live in an urban environment, you might want to ‘get out into the […]

The mystery of Joseph Arch’s plaster hands

One hand forms a light fist – the other relaxed, as though sleeping. The passing of years has given the plaster almost the colour of skin, the fingers looking almost nicotine-stained. The plaster-cast hands of Joseph Arch (10/11/1826-12/02/1919) are very personal objects. One theory for their existence is that they were cast in place of […]

‘Muscle Memory: the story of a pair of clogs’ by Hannah James

For the 2018 MERL Annual Lecture we presented ‘Muscle Memory’, a world-premiere performance from award-winning accordionist, singer and clog dancer Hannah James, developed in response to the collections at The MERL and the traditions that have helped shaped them. One of the key figures in the revival of English percussive dance, Hannah’s musicianship takes her […]

Revealing the Concealed: English Folk Culture and Superstition

During the late medieval and early Tudor era, when superstition about witchcraft and the supernatural was at its height, people in England sought new forms of protection, and, for some, new ways of inflicting harm. It was at this time that many turned to concealing objects. Often found close to entrances, including doorways and fireplaces, […]

Volunteer retires after 23 years at The MERL

Staff and volunteers gathered for a special celebratory coffee morning honouring the sterling service of volunteer, Ron Butler, who is retiring after volunteering for an amazing 23 years at The MERL. The icing on the cake was that Ron was selected to receive the 2018 University of Reading’s Alumni Society’s Distinguished Volunteer Award. Ron and […]

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    The Museum reopened in October 2016, following a major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

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