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MERL shortlisted for the 2005 Conservation Awards – University of Reading

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MERL shortlisted for the 2005 Conservation Awards

Release Date 11 May 2005

camel demonstrating crop-spraying equipment in 1951A year-long conservation project at the Museum of English Rural Life – which saw thousands of historic photographs being preserved for future generations – has been shortlisted for a prestigious Conservation Award. The awards, backed by Sir Paul McCartney, are the UK's leading awards for the preservation of cultural heritage. MERL has been shortlisted for the Award for Care of Collections 2005, a new award in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the awards. The award focuses on projects which improve the conditions in which our heritage collections are housed. The winner will receive £10,000. MERL's Preservation of Images of Rural Life Project involved re-housing 130,000 agricultural glass plate negatives – a unique record of farming life over the last century created by the Farmer & Stockbreeder and Farmers Weekly magazines. More than 40 enthusiastic volunteers worked on the project and they discovered some rather unusual images, including a farm horse wearing a gas mask in the 1940s, and a camel carrying spraying equipment. These fascinating images give an insight into a vanished way of life. The volunteers were trained and supervised by the Project Conservator, Brenda Lee. Each glass negative was individually wrapped and then boxed for protection. Two other organisations have been shortlisted for this award. The National Railway Museum for its custom-built collections centre housing 70 vehicles and The Museum of London for the Museum of London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre, which houses artefacts from 100 years of excavation across London. All the shortlisted projects will be visited by the Awards judges over the summer. The members of the 2005 judging panel are: • Liz Forgan OBE, (Chair of the Judging Panel) Chair, Heritage Lottery Fund • Dan Cruickshank, Television presenter and historic buildings expert • George Ferguson, President, RIBA • Sir Simon Jenkins, Author and columnist • Maev Kennedy, Arts Correspondent, The Guardian • Gillian Lewis, Formerly Head of Conservation, National Maritime Museum • Georgina Nayler, Director, The Pilgrim Trust • Alice Rawsthorn, Director, The Design Museum The Conservation Awards were originally set up by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (then the Museums and Galleries Commission), which has continued to give financial and other support over ten rounds. Welcoming the shortlist John Fidler, Conservation Director at English Heritage, said: "The Conservation Awards focus attention on the multidisciplinary skills necessary in the field, and the importance of engaging the public in the value of our collective heritage." The winners will be announced at the British Museum on 22 November 2005. End Notes for editors -For more information about the Preservation of Agricultural Glass Plate Negatives Project visit http://www.ruralhistory.org/online_exhibitions/glass_neg/index.html -For more information on the Conservation Awards 2005 visit: http://www.consawards.ukic.org.uk -Digital images of some of the MERL photographs – including the horse wearing a gas mask in the 1940s, and the camel carrying spraying equipment – are available for media use. Please contact Craig Hillsley, the University of Reading's press officer on (tel) 0118 378 7388 or (email) c.hillsley@rdg.ac.uk

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