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The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL)

The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL)

The MERL was established in Reading in 1951 to capture and record the rapidly changing countryside following World War II. In 2005, it moved to its current premises in St Andrew’s Hall, a building designed by Sir Alfred Waterhouse in 1880 for local businessman Alfred Palmer of the Huntley & Palmer biscuit company.

Today the Museum uses its diverse and surprising collection to explore how the skills and experiences of farmers and craftspeople, past and present, can help shape our lives now and into the future. The Museum has worked alongside rural people, local communities and specialist researchers to create displays and activities that engage with important debates about the future of food and the ongoing relevance of the countryside to all our lives.


The MERL belongs to the University of Reading Museums and Special Collections Service (UMASCS)

The University of Reading is recognised for the exceptional diversity and quality of its museums and collections, including three Designated collections of national and international importance:

Special Collections
Our collections, which include rare books, archives and manuscripts, are substantial and varied, particularly for a University of this age and size. The University's collections also include artwork.

Cole Museum of Zoology
The Cole Museum of Zoology, a remarkably complete collection of specimens from every important animal group, assembled principally during the period 1907 to 1939 by the first Professor of Zoology at Reading, Francis Cole, reflects the diversity of animal life, including the complete skeleton of an Indian elephant, fossil invertebrates and displays on the biodiversity of Whiteknights Park

Ure Museum of Greek Archaology
The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, the fourth most important collection of Greek ceramics in Britain, named after Professor P.N. Ure, the first Professor of Classics at Reading (1911 to 1946), and his wife and former pupil Annie D. Ure.

University Herbarium
A research and teaching facility, containing around 300,000 specimens of flowering plants, conifers, cycads, ferns, lycophytes and non-vascular plants.

Museum Studies at the University of Reading
Our undergraduate course in Museum Studies at the University of Reading began as a series of modules that were made available to students from 2006. Now students can study for a degree in either Museum Studies with Archaeology, or Museum Studies with Classical Studies.

To find out more about Museum Studies at the University of Reading please see





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