Horseman’s Word: a secret society of horse wizards

In The MERL reading room, we keep a collection of documents that we call ‘Classified Files’. These are not about UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, or sightings of Big Foot in rural Essex. Instead, they are copies of documents, arranged by MERL classification.  However, the Classified Files do contain many remarkable rural secrets. Which is […]

More Hidden Stories

Written by Sue Spiller, Cultural Commissioning Project Officer at The MERL. Since we told you about our Life Stories Project back in December we have been busy working in partnership with Age UK Berkshire and Younger People with Dementia to gather the stories of some of Reading’s older generation. Finding ourselves in lockdown again meant […]

51 Voices: of Mice and Museums

This January, 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 this […]

Queer Rural Connections: queer history and belonging in the countryside

This summer, The MERL will host the Queer Rural Connections live promenade show and documentary film, which will share the stories and experiences of queer rural people. Below, Timothy Allsop, writer, actor, and director, tells us about the ideas behind the project, what he hopes it will achieve, and the challenges he has faced so […]

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 […]

Staff Stories – what Culture Recovery Fund support means to us

On July 5 2020, the Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced an unprecedented, world-leading £1.57 billion rescue package for cultural and heritage organisations to help them weather the impact of coronavirus. Under an £880m grants programme managed by Arts Council England, The MERL was awarded £74,248. The funding […]

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 […]

Hidden Stories

The MERL – so much more than simply galleries for people to visit…. The MERL prides itself in being part of the local Reading community beyond the walls of the museum. Recently we have had the opportunity to partner with Age UK Berkshire to take our collections to a whole new audience and we jumped […]

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 […]

  • Visit us

    Visit Us

    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

    Book now