Making a Museum

Detail of the final page of a draft, typewritten article by John Higgs entitled 'Making a Museum'

John Higgs, Making a Museum (edited proof, 1951) This draft, typewritten article details reflections on the formation of The MERL from one of its founders, the first Keeper, John Higgs. By his own admission, the Museum was destined to be ‘strange by normal concepts’ and geared towards gathering material to research the ‘far-reaching changes’ seen […]

Time to take CARE

Learn about our focus for 2022: highlighting how we take care of rural heritage, the countryside’s future, and each other.

Chicken in a Basket

Ose poultry basket (MERL 60/770)

Poultry basket, Ose, 1945–1946 Mid-century craft expert Muriel Rose bought this poultry basket, or Ose, from Highland Home Industries in Edinburgh during the 1940s. It was one of many handmade items sourced by her on behalf of the British Council who at that time established a significant collection of rural craft objects. Much of this material […]

The history of the servants’ ball

The servants’ ball has had a long tradition in the country house estates of Britain and only really died out after the Second World War.

Black Eyes and Lemonade

Cover of exhibition catalogue for Black Eyes and Lemonade (GREAT EXHIBITION--12/06)

Exhibition catalogue, Black Eyes and Lemonade, 1951 This catalogue listed the contents of a quietly influential exhibition held as part of the Festival of Britain. An eclectic range of items were assembled by artist and author Barbara Jones, the creative force behind the show. The displays made a powerful statement about the importance and vitality […]

Cotswold Tradition

Cover of exhibition catalogue for The Cotswold Tradition (MERL Library 9214 COT)

Exhibition catalogue, The Cotswold Tradition, 1951 This catalogue reveals that some of the many objects given to The MERL by writer H. J. Massingham in early 1951 were almost immediately sent on loan to an exhibition at Cirencester Park. This display was part of a significant regional strand of the Festival of Britain and was […]

Sutton’s Seeds Sign

Sutton & Sons Ltd plaque showing the location of the company’s office in Calcutta (Kolkata), India (MERL 2019/50).

Sutton & Sons Ltd, Indian branch office sign, circa 1950s In the nineteenth century, Reading was home to several major industries. Sutton & Sons Ltd grew from a local shop into a global firm. In 1912 they established an India branch in Russell Street, Calcutta, from which they developed and grew seeds for both the […]

51 Voices: A growing understanding

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. […]

Queer Constellations: an interview with Daniel Baker

From the 6th July, two artworks by Daniel Baker, Copse and Canopy, will go on display at The MERL as part of our latest display, Queer Constellations. Daniel is a Romani Gypsy born in Kent: an artist, curator and theorist, he holds a PhD on the subject of Gypsy aesthetics from the Royal College of […]

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