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 […]

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 […]

Agricultural Shows in the Picture

As we enter the virtual showground and magnificent new website of The Greatest Online Agricultural Show to celebrate our friends in the virtual farming community, we wanted to post to our own blog to mark the moment. What better time for our curator Ollie Douglas to delve into the rich culture and history of agricultural shows? […]

Object-handling at home – the bee skep

In this post our curator, Ollie Douglas, introduces us to bee skeps and helps us to explore their history, construction, and design. He describes some simple, hands-on ways for us to think and learn about how bee-keepers used to house their bees (all without having to leave our own homes). A bee skep is a […]

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 […]

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 […]

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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

    RG1 5EX

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