'Our Country Lives' is MERL's Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment project to transform the Museum and the way a new generation engages with rural heritage through new, themed displays, innovative interpretation and an exciting programme of activities.
The MERL received a development grant from the HLF in November 2012, a second round bid was submitted in February 2014 and a confirmed grant of £1,798,200 was awarded in June 2014.
The new Museum will connect people to the countryside by revealing the relevance of rural life, past and present, to our modern and urban lives and exploring its vital place in addressing questions of identity, environment, sustainability and health.
Our Country Lives will involve creating new galleries that are designed to deliver a more engaging experience for our visitors by introducing more interactives, handling opportunities and innovative digital interpretation.
New extensions will be added and existing spaces will be radically redesigned to improve the visitor experience. We will create improved signage and a more welcoming space and shop, new ground-breaking learning spaces, new facilities and a new kitchen for the provision of refreshments.
The new galleries will enable us to reintroduce visitors to some of the 'hidden treasures' in our collections which we have not been able to display before, including our textile and craft collections, (1951 wall hangings) as well as many recently collected 20C items which bring the collections up to date and reveal the modern countryside.
The project will allow us to celebrate popular collections such as those relating to craft and the lives of craftspeople, which will connect to the contemporary revival in making and mending.
The garden will become an integral part of every visit to MERL, with improved play facilities for children and new food and crop-based planting, reflecting the themes of the displays inside.
The new displays will revitalise the collections by shifting the balance from displays of agricultural machinery, tools and implements to stories of the people who used them.
As well as physical changes to the displays 'Our Country Lives' includes an exciting three year programme of projects and events, aimed at involving diverse communities in the life and work of the museum and creating opportunities for stories to be told by different voices.