Reading Connections Project: Craft


MERL has a fantastic array of traditional craft products and tools in its collections, from such crafts as basketry, blacksmithing, wood turning, carpentry, lacemaking, leatherwork, pottery, stonemasonry, straw crafts, and wheelwrighting, amongst many others. Reading Connections has built on this strength with two strands of activity.

Craft cataloguing

The first strand has built on cataloguing work done at MERL as part of previous projects. Approximately 4500 objects in the collection were originally classified as 'craft' and work has been done to ensure that all those objects have complete/enhanced digital catalogue records. Beginning with the 1300 objects which were yet to be properly catalogued, and then working to tidy up and cross reference the remaining 3200 objects, each record has been enhanced with information about provenance, use and historical context. In some cases, informed by the second strand of activity, further enhancements have been made incorporating more specialist information, such as details to do with materials and techniques. These records are available to the public via MERL's online database. The records have also been systematically keyworded to make them more easily searchable. Download the PDF to see the full list of keywords.

Craft connections

merl-craftswheelThe second strand centred on engagement with craftspeople, especially from Reading and the surrounding areas, and with those whose craft we hold in our collections. The purpose of this activity was to build connections and open dialogue with local craftspeople, and to raise awareness of our collections and their availability for research purposes, with the long-term aim of possibly working together in the future - e.g. in events or on skill- and knowledge-sharing projects.

Work in this strand has included blog posts about crafts at MERL; articles in the Guild of Straw Craftsmen Newsletter and the Basketmakers' Association Newsletter; a visit from 18 members of the Berkshire Bodgers to explore our greenwood craft collections; and a visit to the Lake District to advise a community project on cataloguing their craft collections.


Read updates on the progress of the project on the Reading Connections blog.

Return to the main Reading Connections page for more information about the project and its other themes.

Browse MERL's online database to see some of the craft collections.

The project is generously funded by the Arts Council England's Renaissance Strategic Support Fund.

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