About us

Designated as an Outstanding CollectionThe Museum of English Rural Life houses the most comprehensive national collection of objects, books and archives relating to the history of food, farming and the countryside.

It is the sheer quality and scope of the Library, Archives and  Object Collections that makes MERL exceptional. The collections have Designated status ensuring their importance is recognised nationally and internationally.

As a University Museum and as the founder member of the Rural Museums Network, MERL has built up a reputation as the leading authority in its field and as a centre of excellence in teaching and learning.

MERL is very grateful to its major funders, the University of Reading and HEFCE


The MERL guide bookMERL guide front cover

This richly illustrated new guide provides a fascinating overview of MERL's varied collections, a brief history of the Museum and an introduction to the University of Reading Special Collections, housed in the same building. Beautifully produced and packed full of information and images, this guide is both an excellent starting point for the new visitor and a perfect souvenir for those who have already enjoyed spending time in the Museum. The guide costs £3.50.

If you would like to be contacted when the guide is available, please join our mailing list 


Our mission

The Museum of English Rural Life is dedicated to the spirit of the English countryside and its people. It seeks to build, interpret and convey a record of rural life through its collections for the benefit of all.

The Museum of English Rural Life, from the gardenThe Museum actively pursues this mission by:

  • Managing collections to the highest professional standards
  • Enabling people to enjoy and make use of this material
  • Developing understanding, provoking thoughts, and challenging opinions by means of exhibitions, activity and other forms of communication
  • Using its collections and expertise to contribute to teaching and research both within the academic world and beyond
  • Raising its public profile responsibly as a trusted source of information on the rural heritage
  • Developing links and collaborations with other individuals and organisations having compatible aims
  • Treating everyone with fairness and respect, and adhering to the international code of museum ethics


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