University museum awarded £385,000 to showcase links between science and rural life
Release Date 07 May 2015
This award will transform the Museum, which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, from a site of agricultural heritage into a centre that tackles some of the biggest challenges of the 21st century such as food security and nutrition.
The ‘Our Country Lives: Nutrition, Health and Rural England' project forms part of the Museum's major refurbishment plans, following a grant of £1.7m from the Heritage Lottery Fund in June 2014, which is set to transform the visitor experience.
The additional funding from the Trust will allow the Museum to introduce new themes and interactive opportunities connected to nutrition, animal health and rural healthcare, as well as new displays and a dedicated space devoted to food and farming.
Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, said: "The University is extremely proud of the Museum of English Rural Life and the extraordinary collections that it holds. Connecting these materials with the latest scientific ideas serves to emphasise just how relevant this heritage is to us all. In awarding this project, the Wellcome Trust has shown that it recognises our ability to deliver these new displays and programmes, as well as the strength of expertise within the University's academic community."
A panel of specialist advisors and bio-medical experts, including many from key departments at the University, will help the Museum to deliver a dynamic and diverse programme of science engagement, including online content, hands-on experiences and artistic interpretations.
Professor Christine Williams OBE, an expert in Human Nutrition at the University of Reading and one of the project's specialist advisors, said: "This shift towards exploring the links between biomedical science and rural life is extremely important for the Museum and for the wider community. The University of Reading is committed to excellence in research and has strengths in the life sciences, particularly in relation to food and nutrition. This project will enable us to build stronger links between active research scientists and the wider public, using the Museum and its collections as an innovative platform on which to establish and build this relationship."
Tom Ziessen, Senior National Programmes Adviser at the Wellcome Trust, added: "The countryside and rural life are synonymous with agriculture and food production, but we don't often equate that with health. We are delighted to be able to support the Museum of English Rural Life to explore those connections more deeply, to introduce a new way of looking at rural ecosystems and the health of those who live in them, and the rest of us who rely on them."
The wider Heritage Lottery Funded scheme, known as the ‘Our Country Lives' project, has been underway since autumn 2014. The Museum is currently closed whilst building work is completed and spaces prepared, although the University‘s Special Collections, the Museum shop, the staircase hall and meeting rooms remain open. The Museum is due to open again in April 2016.
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.
Notes for Editors
The Museum of English Rural Life, in Redlands Road, Reading, was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 to reflect and record the changing face of farming and the countryside. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. Today, it forms part of the University's Museums and Special Collections Service. The Museum operates as a major resource and research centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside with links to many academic departments at the University.
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. It supports bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine.