MERL Lunchtime Talks

Attendees at a lunchtime talkThis series of talks provides interesting insights into a wide range of aspects of the life of MERL and current issues concerning arts, heritage and information services. The informal talks are given by MERL staff and invited guests and are open to anyone with an interest in the sector.

The talks take place on Wednesdays from 1 to 2pm. Why not bring your lunch and stay for a chat and a free guided tour of the Museum afterwards?

It is not essential to book, but we do ask you to please book in advance, so that we can contact you in the event of any changes and to give us an idea of possible numbers. 


Programme Winter 2012/Spring 2013

The iMuse project - how can technology make museums more inclusive

lunchtime talks imuse24 October 2012
Dr Annette Haworth

Supported by Reading Borough Council, a communications charity and Vodafone, and in partnership with MERL, this project experimented with novel ways of increasing inclusion in museums by providing a range of activities using mobile technology such as smartphones and iPads. This talk will describe some of the activities, from The Great Reading Cheese Mystery to Tweet a Sheep, and their outcomes. While the indications are that using IT in these ways has potential for increasing inclusion, there remain questions on the effort involved along with copyright and similar issues which the museum community and its visitors need to resolve.


An African narrow gauge adventure

lunchtime talks africa14 November 2012
Anthony Coulls, Senior Curator, Rail Vehicle Collections, National Railway Museum

The National Railway Museum has many international links, from Japan and America to India and Ecuador. However, its dynamic Director, Steve Davies added another partnership when he joined the museum in 2010 - for Steve had set up the National Railway Museum of Sierra Leone in 2005 when serving with the army. In 2009, he invited Anthony Coulls to join him on a visit to the country and this talk looks briefly at the history of the railways in the country, then tells the amazing story of the creation of the museum and the part it is playing in the rehabilitation of the land in the aftermath of Civil War.


Concorde - 50 years on

28 November 2012
Capt. Ian McNeilly

On 29 November 1962 the British and French governments formally agreed to build a supersonic passenger airliner - Concorde. Designed to fly at more than twice the speed of other airliners, only 20 were built. This talk, by one of the men who captained the aircraft, will celebrate one of the most remarkable and iconic engineering achievements of the twentieth century.


A sense of place: putting MERL's objects on the map

5 December 2012
Greta Bertram, Danielle Eade and Felicity McWilliams, MERL

MERL, like almost every museum, faces the challenge of how to help visitors interpret their experience of historical artefacts removed from their original contexts. The aim of the project is to turn the traditional museum catalogue into a more flexible and interactive resource using new technology - and in particular to put objects on the map by showing where they were produced, used and acquired. This talk will show the progress made in helping people to be able to access and make use of our collections data in new and more meaningful ways.


Museums for the Google generation?

9 January 2013
Rebecca Reynolds

More and more museum and archive collections are available online. In this talk we look at what is gained and lost when objects and documents are digitised, exploring views ranging from the celebratory to the sceptical. Participants will be able to compare documents and objects from the MERL stores and archives with the same objects online. The session also helps people to access MERL's online and real archives and stores, and reveals some of the Museum's recently digitised holdings.


In pastures green - Victorian 'garden cemeteries' from Paris to Reading

lunchtime talks kensal green cemetery16 January 2013
Anna Ellis

The movement of people from agricultural work to the towns and cities during the nineteenth century led to overcrowding and disease, and forced major changes to how people lived their lives, and how they viewed mortality. Burial practices were forced to change as old churchyards were found to be full and mismanaged. The writings of Charles Loudon in particular helped to transform Victorian attitudes. An early example of the new garden cemeteries that he suggested may be found in Reading, and this talk will also take as examples the more celebrated Père Lachaise in Paris and Kensal Green in London.


The Hugh Sinclair legacy: organizing the chaos

23 January 2013
Hayley Whiting, MERL

Hugh Sinclair was an eccentric pioneer in the field of human nutrition, best known for establishing the link between essential fatty acids and health. Discover how over 1,200 boxes of his papers, ranging from bus tickets to major research surveys, were sorted and catalogued. The talk will provide an insight into this unique and significant collection and its huge research potential.

For more information about the Hugh Sinclair Archive project, click here 


Virtual Rome: rebuilding the ancient city

lunchtime talks rome6 February 2013
Dr Matthew Nicholls, Department of Classics

Drawing on his research and teaching interests, and digital modelling expertise, Dr Nicholls has created an ambitious digital model of the entire ancient city of Rome. The model shows the city as it appeared c. AD 315. This session looks at how technology has enabled us to explore thousands of ancient structures and bring them to life.



Previous series

For details of previous Lunchtime Talks, see our past programmes.

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