Exciting plans for University Museum redevelopment go on display
Release Date 20 October 2014
Visitors to the Museum of English Rural Life can now discover its exciting redevelopment plans that will transform the visitor experience and the way we understand our rural heritage.
From 1st November the Museum (MERL) will be closing its doors to the public for the refurbishment which will expand the galleries and allow never seen before ‘hidden treasures' to go on display.
In June this year the Museum, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, was awarded a confirmed grant of £1.7m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The refurbished Museum will explore the relevance of rural life, past and present, to our modern and urban lives, explaining its vital place in addressing questions of identity, environment, sustainability and health.
For the rest of this month visitors will be able to see detailed plans and artist's impressions of the new galleries on display in the Museum. Entrance to the Museum is free. The Museum will be open as usual during half-term (25-31 October) for family friendly activities.
Although the galleries will be closed to the public for approximately a year, other parts of the building will remain open, including the reading room at the University‘s Special Collections, the Museum shop, the staircase hall and meeting rooms. During this time there will be opportunities for the general public to stay in touch with the Museum through a new Family Forum, a Youth Forum, volunteering and community projects, and special events.
Isabel Hughes, Curator at MERL said: "We are very excited to be getting the ball rolling. Although the Museum will be closed to the public, staff will be very busy finalising plans and then creating the new galleries. We'll also be recruiting new staff and volunteers to help with all aspects of the redevelopment, including several community projects which will start during the coming months.
"The Museum will be shut but staff will definitely not be shutting up! There will be lots of interesting work going on behind the closed doors and we will be sharing as much as possible with the public via our blog and social media. Keep up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, and look out for details of regular special events."
Alison Hilton, Marketing Officer at MERL, added: "We look forward to showcasing our exciting plans to as many people as possible over the next two weeks. Our fun half-term activities will still take place, including a free pumpkin hunt with a chocolate prize. Families will also be able to make and decorate a ‘chocolate box' to take the prize home in. On Thursday 30th, there will also be ‘The Our Country Lives Big Draw', a bookable workshop with University art students to create artwork to decorate the hoardings in use at MERL during the closure period.
Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: "This is an engaging project which will give visitors and local people from across the community the chance to explore and learn about changing rural life across England. The ‘Our Country Lives' project will build on the museum's existing success by revitalising existing displays and exhibitions, creating new learning spaces and improving the visitor facilities. These changes, combined with an exciting programme of educational activities and volunteer opportunities, will bring the museum into the 21st century making it a great place to visit for all."
More information about the MERL redevelopment project, as well as what events and community projects are taking place during the closure, is available on the ‘Our Country Lives' blog.
More information about the family events taking place this half-term can be found here.