During the lockdown due to COVID-19, the MERL’s galleries, cafe, shop and garden are closed and our events on site are cancelled, but if you’re missing your visits to the Museum or are looking for a new place to explore from home, perhaps you could try a virtual visit? On this page, we’ve gathered together some ideas for ways to explore the galleries, our collections and some of our events and activities.
Visit The MERL online
Explore the galleries
On each of our gallery pages, you’ll find a brief introduction to the theme of each gallery, and a 360 photo to allow to have a look around the gallery. It’s not quite the same as being there in person, but you can get a good idea of the artefacts on display.
The MERL Curator of Collections, Dr Ollie Douglas introduces the Welcome Case, A Year on the Farm and the Town and Country galleries in this ‘Introduction to The MERL’ youtube playlist
You can also get a closer look at selected artefacts and archive images in ‘Discover’
Take a Virtual Tour
The MERL Google Streetview tour was created a couple of years ago, so the eagle-eyed regular visitor will notice a few differences, as we are always adding new objects and activities to the galleries, but this is a great way to take a quiet walk through the galleries without leaving the house!
The tour below is made up of a series of 360° photographs that take you around the Museum and our garden. Start the tour by clicking here or using the window below, and then navigate around the Museum by clicking around or using the arrow keys on your keyboard. It is best viewed on desktop.
Explore exhibitions online
We have a regular programme of temporary exhibitions at the MERL, which are usually in-gallery installations by artists and researchers, or displays highlighting the breadth of the MERL and other University Special Collections. We have moved our current displays online, so you can visit Shoulder to the Wheel and Thinking Rationally (an exhibition created by 3rd Year Museum Studies students) alongside several existing online exhibitions that explore more of our collections in depth.
Take part in online events
We were very excited about the programme of events and activities we had lined up for the Spring, and it was very sad to have to cancel some of them. We were determined to find ways of making several events happen anyway – digitally. You can find details of our digital programme on our What’s On page, but here are a few ideas.
We’re missing our Friday Fledglings, but session leaders Charlotte and Fong are delivering activities and ideas for outdoor learning for under-5s every Friday morning via the MERL Facebook page. You can find activities from previous sessions here.
Lots of information and activities for families to learn about bees and how to protect them.
Seminar Series: Designing Landscapes for the People
Join a live seminar and watch recordings of talks by leading figures in landscape architecture today. Find out about the series.
Try out online activities
Object Handling at Home
Our Curator of Collections has devised some fascinating ways of understanding the MERL collections through ‘object handling’ sessions at home. Have a go yourself and find out more about bee skeps, smocks and farm toys.
Talking of smocks, if you’re a Animal Crossing player, you might like to try out our #AnimerlCrossing activity and see what other players have created…
Become a Virtual Shepherd
We can’t travel to the countryside during lockdown, but this is one way of escaping to Dartmoor! Watch the 360 video of a modern-day shepherd riding a quad bike over Dartmoor, and find out how the film was made. The films are both in on our Virtual Reality Youtube playlist
Lose yourself in the seasons
If you have visited The MERL, you will be familiar with the beautiful animation of a forest scene through the seasons, whether you’ve watched it on loop with an enthralled child, or just be surprised by the sound of thunder while you enjoyed your tea in the cafe! You can now watch an immersive 360 version of the animation via the new MERL app. Find the download links on the ‘Shaping the Land’ gallery page.
Learn with The MERL
Designed for use by teachers in schools and colleges, these resources are an incredible source of ideas to help you explore subjects as diverse as history, science, art and geography with your children at home.
Follow us on social media
Although the museum is closed, we’re continuing to share entertaining and informative content inspired by our collections through social media.
Explore beyond The MERL
Did you know that the University of Reading is home to an incredible variety of collections? You can now explore them all on the new Museums and Collections website…but give yourself some time!!
We also work closely with Reading Museum as part Museums Partnership Reading, an Arts Council England funded programme. Explore Reading Museum’s digital resources here.
And if you’re interested in going further afield on your online travels, why not take a virtual trip along the Great West Way.