Volunteer at MERL


A short film about volunteering at MERL

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Volunteering is an ideal way to learn new skills, make friends and get involved in a wide range of projects.Volunteers and staff celebrate gaining the Investing in Volunteers award on 1st June 2012 to coincide with National Volunteers Week

We offer projects for volunteers within the Museum of English Rural Life, and also in the University of Reading's other Museums and Special Collections (UMASCS), including the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology and the Cole Museum of Zoology. In addition, there are also opportunities in Soil Sciences, and Typography and Graphic Communication.

The projects we offer can be short or long term and even if you only have an hour or two to spare a week, your time could make a real difference in helping us organise our collections.


Many of our volunteers are students from the University of Reading. However we also offer work experience placements to pupils from local schools, graduates and undergraduates from other universities who want to volunteer during their holidays.

All of these volunteers share one goal. They want to gain insight and relevant work experience to Volunteer Family Tour Guideshelp them decide whether they want a career in museums, archives and libraries. Volunteering gives these students an opportunity to find out which areas they enjoy working in and be better informed about what it's like working in these environments.

Special interest groups

The Museum of English Rural Life takes part in a joint projects with a special interest groups, such as the recent Heavy Metal project with the Road Locomotive Society, which aimed to improve the public's access to its steam engine and agricultural machinery manufacturers' archives. Volunteers from special interest groups are particularly valuable as they have specialist knowledge to share with other volunteers and can be very useful on a strategic level, for example as part of a steering group.

Local residents

Have you got time on your hands? We welcome local people as volunteers, whether you are Garden Volunteers plan the tulip gardeninterested in working in a museum or archive, want to make friends or learn a new skill. Come and get involved in a fascinating museum on your doorstep!






Confessions of a Volunteer Coordinator

This blog is created and written by the volunteer coordinator at the other University of Reading Museums and Collections (UMASCS). Follow the posts to keep up to date with what volunteers are doing and to find out what it's like to be a volunteer at UMASCS.

Confessions of a Volunteer Coordinator



Here are a few of the projects we are currently running...

Tour GuidesVolunteers in costume for the Victorian Christmas celebration

We have a team of around 16 superb volunteer tour guides, who take groups of people around the collection, with each one giving a unique tour! They can be booked on weekdays, or alternatively you can come along on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm, and join onto a tour then.

Some of our tour guides dress up in costumes, and bring the museum to life for family groups. They do tours of the museum, and also get involved at special events, like our Victorian Christmas celebration.


Since late 2012 we have been developing and trialling a project which involves taking items from our photographic collection out into care homes around Reading, and listening to the residents' stories of their lives in the countryside. This project is immensely rewarding, as we get to see the positive impact our collections can have on people.

ArchivesPaper conservation with volunteers on the Countryfile project

There are various roles for volunteers in the archives, from sorting papers, entering information onto databases, and performing paper conservation tasks. We have a range of different archives, including publishers, farming organisations, photographs, and the Samuel Beckett collection.

Our Countryfile project has been running since October, and the team of volunteers has been handling our archive of farming cooperative papers. These have needed some conservation, including removing rusty old staples, and putting the documents into new folders. So far we have dealt with almost 1000 items!

GardenBee Worlds at MERL

With Summer well underway, our garden volunteers have been busy working on this year's projects. This includes making our back garden into a bee sanctuary, with bee-friendly plants, and places for bees to live.

Honey bees are very important to our agriculture (and produce delicious honey) but they have suffered a disastrous decline in recent years.

Factors suspected of causing their decline are parasites, pesticides, unusual weather conditions, and farming practices - but you can help them in your own gardens by planting bee-friendly plants.

At MERL we are doing everything we can to encourage and support bees. We have created Bee Worlds, which are havens of wildflowers in urban and rural spaces. They provide essential food and shelter for bees, and help reverse the trend of declining bee populations in the UK. Visit MERL to see our Bee Worlds in action.

Here is a list of bee friendly flowers and plants, they're easy to obtain and you can create your own bee friendly garden.

Allium, Eryngium, Scabious, Alyssum, Leucanthemum, Antirrhinum, Lupins, Sweet Peas, Calendula Monarda, Trifolium, Coreopsis, Rudbeckia, Verbena, Digitalis, Salvia.

Celebrating Volunteers

"Volunteers are the life and soul of the University Museums, they contribute so much time and effort, offering invaluable experience and a breath of fresh air. We are delighted that our volunteers have been recognised at the highest level, we hope that our community volunteers continue to be a part of our organisation for years to come." - Rob Davies, Volunteer Coordinator, UMASCS.

Universities Week 2011 press release - University says thank you to its volunteers

Volunteers for Museums

2010-11- Volunteers for Museums

If you are interested in volunteering, contact our Volunteer Coordinator to find out more.

Things to do now

Contact our Volunteer Coordinator


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