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Young people at the heart of new £1m museum investment in Reading – University of Reading

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Young people at the heart of new £1m museum investment in Reading

Release Date 27 June 2017

Children at the MERL

The Museum of English Rural Life (the MERL) and Reading Museum (RM) are among the successful applicants for National Portfolio Funding by the Arts Council England (ACE), announced today. 

The Reading Town and Country Museums Partnership (RTCMP) is a consortium of the University of Reading and Reading Borough Council’s two leading museums, and have been awarded £1m over four years to ensure they play a leading part in the transformation of Reading’s reputation as a cultural centre.  

The MERL and Reading Museum’s strategic partnership is at the heart of Reading’s place-shaping vision, developing and delivering high quality cultural experiences that enrich the lives of people from Reading and beyond. As a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) ACE investment in this partnership will focus on securing a sustainable basis for developing new and inspiring opportunities for people in and around Reading to experience and enjoy Reading’s rich and distinctive heritage.  

Kate Arnold-Forster, Director of the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading, said:

“I am absolutely delighted. This award will open up more outstanding opportunities for Reading communities to benefit from and engage creatively with its unique and important heritage.  It recognises the achievements and quality of our partnership working in recent years and provides an exciting platform for future joint working.”

NPO funding will enable the two museums to continue building on the strengths of existing links. Among its plans will be a new vision of the Silchester galleries at Reading Museum, involving expertise from the University’s archaeology department and increased investment in schools and learning programmes for young people through a shared Youth Strategy.

In addition, The MERL will lead on the consortium’s ambition to develop work with creative practitioners and artists to engage new audiences, including promoting artist residences and new ways of displaying the Museum’s collections.

Both museums have undergone important recent transformations: Newly reopened galleries, facilities and learning spaces at the MERL and Reading Abbey Revealed, a project led by RM to develop the Abbey Quarter as Reading’s most important historic area. Together with a track record of successful joint working, the new Reading Town and Country Museums Partnership is strongly placed to exploit the combined strengths of our common commitment and ambitions to deliver excellence for local communities.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said:

“We’re really pleased to welcome The Museum of England Rural Life (MERL) and Reading Museum to the 2018-22 National Portfolio. Both organisations sit at the heart of Reading’s place-shaping vision, creating and delivering high-quality cultural experiences that enrich the lives of people from Reading and beyond. MERL brings our wonderful countryside to life through its collections, exploring how farmers and craftspeople have influenced the way we live today and will continue to do so in the future.

“Reading Museum has a wonderful collection that provides an insight into the town’s history. Both museums sought to build a really strong audience for their work, developing partnerships, working with schools – with one of the most successful loans services in the UK – and reaching out to those who don’t typically visit museums. We’re very pleased to be able to support this museum partnership, particularly its work with younger audiences from areas of low-engagement and low-income – providing them with an inspiring cultural experience.”

Councillor Sarah Hacker, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Culture says:


“I am so pleased that the Reading Town and Country Museum’s Partnership have won this award. It is a brilliant reflection of the achievement of the partnership, and is a further step towards the recognition of Reading as a national cultural hub and will open up the rich heritage of the town more than ever before.”

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