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Lord Carrington thanks supporters of the new £11m MERL – University of Reading

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Lord Carrington thanks supporters of the new £11m MERL

Release Date 11 November 2005

a country roadMany of those people who generously supported the development of the £11m home for the University of Reading's Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) will get their first glimpse of the new building at a special ceremony on Monday 14 November. Lord Carrington, Chancellor of the University of Reading and President of the MERL Appeal, will speak at the reception and thank all those people and organisations who have helped create a modern museum environment that shows off the internationally important collections in the best possible conditions. Also speaking at the event will be: Professor Gordon Marshall, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading; Giles Waterfield, Trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which provided £5.17m towards the development; Professor Michael Fulford, Chair of the MERL Advisory Committee; and Dr Roy Brigden, Keeper of the Museum. There will also be the unveiling of a donors' board and the opening of a specially designed bound book listing those individuals and groups who have contributed to the museum. Along with the grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the MERL development has been funded by the University and charitable donations from members of the public. "We're holding this event simply because we thought it essential to say a big 'thank you' to all those people that have helped transform MERL into a 21st century museum," said Dr Roy Brigden. "Over the last few years, we've managed to raise nearly £11m, which is far more than we ever expected, and every donation, no matter how large or small, has been absolutely vital." Carole Souter, Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), said: "England has always had a special relationship with the land: its beautiful countryside and the character of its rural buildings. The Museum of English Rural Life, now revitalised with funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is committed to bringing history alive for its visitors. Thousands of children and community groups have found out more about their rural heritage through being able to actually handle some of the museum's fascinating collection of papers and objects which celebrate 200 years of our rural history." The new MERL, now in Redlands Road, Reading, opened its doors to the public in July 2005 following a three-year relocation and redevelopment project. The museum is about life and work in the countryside over the last 200 years and presents its entire collection of over 22,000 objects in a new and innovative display and open store. There is also a vast archive containing historic records, over 1 million photographs and extensive film material as well as a large reference library. The museum provides a different experience to the traditional museums that visitors may be used to. It has been designed to spark the imagination, to allow people to simply enjoy the objects before them and to encourage them to think in new ways about what is largely a lost world. Bekky Moran, the University Museums and Collections Learning Manager, said: "The museum has put learning for all sectors of the community at the heart of its new activities. We have included 'learning spaces' to provide areas for school parties and groups to gather for talks and discussion, or for the chance to engage with a craftsperson or demonstrator. The studio and the garden, when it is fully restored, will provide space for more practical activities – from art workshops to working on community projects." There are also exciting plans for the immediate and long term future, including new interactive and electronic information sources, learning programmes, temporary exhibitions, and family fun days in the summer holidays. More details can be found on the museum's website http://www.merl.org.uk The museum is open Tuesday–Friday 10am until 4.30pm and weekends between 2pm and 4.30pm. It is closed on Bank Holidays, Easter and between Christmas and New Year. Admission is free. For further information please call 0118 378 8660 or visit the website http://www.merl.org.uk where a map, directions and public transport information can be located. End For media enquiries, and to confirm attendance at the ceremony, please contact Craig Hillsley, the University of Reading's press officer. T: 0118 378 7388 E: c.hillsley@reading.ac.uk

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