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Learning from our Rural Heritage

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) has been part of the University since 1951. It houses the UK’s most comprehensive collection of objects, books and archives relating to the history of food, farming and the countryside.

It’s a fantastic resource for students across a range of disciplines – from history and archaeology to agriculture, food science, environmental management and more. As a growing proportion of our research focuses on the challenges involved in securing sustainable societies – responding to issues such as food security, population growth and climate change – its value to Reading will increase.

But today’s museums must do more to attract visitors – so MERL is currently undergoing a comprehensive refurbishment to create a more interactive learning environment. The refurbishment, entitled Our Country Lives, will be completed in summer 2016. It will highlight the connections between rural life, past and present, and modern urban lives. Addressing questions of identity, environment, sustainability and health, it will bring English rural history to life, put previously unseen exhibits on display for the first time, and provide a richer visitor experience.

Our Country Lives received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Wellcome Trust, DCMS Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund and the Headley Trust. Generous donations also came from the Friends and our alumni. As always, we are very grateful for your support, which will allow us to complete this ambitious project for the benefit of students and visitors.

What will be different?

New exhibits that offer a more interactive and digital learning experience
Extended galleries and redesigned visitor spaces including ground-breaking learning spaces and additional facilities
• Previously unseen treasures that can now be displayed for the first time
• A redesigned garden with improved play facilities for children and new food and crop-based planting exhibitions
Lectures and events which are open to alumni, students and local people

How to get involved

• Follow our blog
• Join our mailing list
• Donate to the project. Find out more by emailing
• Visit the Museum! The refurbished MERL will open in summer 2016.

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