51 Voices: from Protest to Performance

Last month, The MERL embarked on 51 Voices, a new year-long project celebrating the Museum’s seventieth anniversary in 2021. Throughout the year, we will be working with a range of writers, artists and different communities to give contemporary voice to fifty-one objects and archives in The MERL collection connected in myriad ways to our founding year. In the […]

The MERL is 70!

In this post Curator of MERL Collections, Dr Ollie Douglas, introduces us to 51 Voices, a new project celebrating the creation of the Museum seven decades ago. The team have been delving into our stores to find objects that tell diverse stories about the year of our birth – 1951. As Ollie explains, this mid-century moment […]

Why do we give each other socks? And other important questions

Written by Nicola Minney. Socks have long been a staple of Christmas gift giving. Where there’s a Christmas tree, there’s a great pair of socks waiting patiently beneath. Luckily, The MERL collection is filled with socks, which – thankfully – are all still paired. In time for the festive season, join us to celebrate this […]

Naming places: how children make the world their own

Written by Dr Jeremy Burchardt, Department of History, University of Reading Place-name (toponym) research has a long and distinguished tradition in English historical scholarship, associated with the work of luminaries such as Margaret Gelling, Harry Thorpe and the English Place Name Society. Admittedly, there is an even longer tradition of bogus place-name derivations–just the other […]

Superstitious in the countryside

Written by Nicola Minney. An active part in the make-up of rural England’s pysche has always been a degree of superstition. In agricultural communities, people’s lives critically depended on bountiful harvests and healthy livestock, as they still do, so the people would be vigilant for any and all signs of looming disaster, of portents and […]

Breaking the Colour Bar

To tie in with our new online exhibition and most recent ‘object-handling at home’ blog, in this post Tamisan Latherow introduces us to the little-known and extraordinary story of one particular land girl. Amelia King was of Afro-Caribbean ancestry and her wartime story is one that highlights the racism faced by people of colour in mid-twentieth […]

Object-handling at home – Women’s Land Army shoes

In this post our curator, Ollie Douglas, introduces us to explore shoes issued to members of the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War and invites us to visit our new online ‘Land Girls’ exhibition. He describes some simple, hands-on (and ‘feet-in’) ways for us to learn about the footwear given to ‘land girls’, encouraging us to think about […]

Farming and mental health – past and present

Covid-19 is already having a massive economic, social, and psychological impact on rural communities and the farming sector. The impact on mental health and wellbeing will be ongoing, adding to existing pressures. In this post, Dr Sarah Holland of the University of Nottingham explores the historic relationship between rural communities, farming, and mental health. She draws […]

Contested Countryside: Commons & the Cold War

This ‘Contested Countryside’ blog by Felicity McWilliams tells a story from the Museum’s newly acquired archives of the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body. It explores the disproportionate impact of a small group of West Berkshire Commoners on the US-USSR nuclear arms race in the 1980s. Greenham Common is an 855-acre gravel plateau […]

Object Handling at Home – farm toys

In this post our curator, Ollie Douglas, introduces us to a new display of farm toys, helping us think about how farm miniatures are made and what they tell us about the world. If we were in The MERL we’d be unveiling Playing at Farming, a new farm toy display. Since we aren’t able to […]

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    We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to The MERL from Tues 8th September.

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    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road

    Reading

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