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First researchers to MERL's new reading room visit from Australia – University of Reading

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First researchers to MERL's new reading room visit from Australia

Release Date 05 May 2005

an exhibit from MERLs archivesThe Museum of English Rural Life's archives and library reading room opened to the public on Tuesday 3 May 2005. The first visitors, Alan and Valerie Woodcock from Australia, were presented with a bottle of champagne by Caroline Gould, MERL Archivist. The couple combined a visit to England to visit relatives with undertaking some family history research in MERL's archives. The museum, which used to be located at the University's Whiteknights campus, has moved to a new state-of-the-art home at the former St Andrew's Hall of Residence – which was built for Andrew Palmer's great-grandfather Alfred in the 1880s. The £10.89m MERL development has been supported by a £5.17m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, funding by the University of Reading and by generous donations from members of the public and other organisations. Caroline Gould, Museum Archivist, said: "We are thrilled to open the first phase of the Museum of English Rural Life. The new Museum offers fantastic new facilities for the archives, film, photographic, library and object collections as well as improved facilities for researchers. The new exhibition galleries will be open in July 2005." The museum archives contain: business records of companies relating to agriculture including steam manufacturers Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies of Ipswich and seed distributors Suttons Seeds of Reading; records of agricultural organisations include the Council for the Protection of Rural England and National Farmers Union as well as estate records and business records of individual farms throughout England. The Museum library covers the whole range of agricultural history and rural life with particular strengths in farming techniques and equipment and dairying. The periodicals include major runs of journals in agricultural history, agricultural economics and agricultural engineering as well as popular magazines including Farmers Weekly and Country Life. The library and archives reading room is open Tuesday to Friday 10am-4.30pm. For further details visit or telephone 0118 378 8660. End For media enquiries only, please contact Craig Hillsley, the University's press officer, on (tel) 0118 378 7388 or (email)

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