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 […]

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, […]

A snap chat about new photos of country shows

The next exciting instalment of our current Land and Folk seminar series brings the story of photographer Arnhel de Serra’s ongoing project, The Country Show, to The MERL for the very first time (see here for details). This body of work has been over a decade in the making and is the result of his […]

Autumn is Here: Grab Your Mattock, People!

September. The darker nights are drawing in, casseroles will soon be making a triumphant return to our kitchen tables, and mattocks are having a moment. That’s right, mattocks. The ultimate Autumn tool for farmers everywhere. But what are these mysterious tools, and why have they been so important to agriculture through the ages? What’s the […]

Inspired by the collection: Caitlin Hinshelwood’s ‘Rural Life’ scarf

Caitlin Hinshelwood is a London based textile artist and designer, producing distinctive, hand dyed and screen-printed pieces. She is interested in using motifs and symbols to suggest narrative within her textiles. I am often drawn to the work of unknown makers, objects that have been made for necessity, decoration, or just the love of it. […]

Heritage Crafts at Risk

Written by Greta Bertram, Secretary of the Heritage Crafts Association and freelance consultant. The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) is a charity which supports and promotes heritage craft skills, knowledge and practices as a fundamental part of our living heritage. In the HCA we’ve long been aware of anecdotal evidence about crafts which have disappeared or […]

Tanya Harrod: Archaic Modernists: Women, Textiles and the Margins of Europe

Paddy Bullard reflects on Tanya Harrod’s seminar as part of the Department of English Literature and the MERL speaker series on the ‘Tangible and Intangible Countryside’ Tanya Harrod is the doyenne of modern folk art studies, and the most distinguished historian and critic of craft working in Great Britain today. She is best known as […]

Interview with Art Collections Officer, Part 1

Volunteer, Whitney continues her series of interviews with members of staff with a chat with Jacqueline Winston-Silk, Art Collections Officer, about her role. Can you give me a little background of the work you do here at MERL? I am based at the Museum and employed by the University of Reading. I manage the University’s Art Collections […]

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

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