Press Releases

Going Green: Sustainability Past and Present at the Museum of English Rural Life – University of Reading

Release Date : 26 June 2007

A green theme will be running through events and exhibitions this summer at the Museum of English Rural Life.

The Museum (MERL), which is owned and managed by the University of Reading, is holding a varied programme of events and activities around the theme of Going Green: Sustainability Past and Present, including a unique exhibition throughout the summer.

As a museum and research facility with nationally and internationally important collections relating to food, farming and the countryside, MERL is well placed to provide a forum for the discussion of issues relating to the environment.

Will Phillips, Curator at MERL, said: "Everyone is talking about the future of the planet. What makes MERL's new exhibition unique is its attempt to present parts of the Museum's historical collection within the context of today's environmental debate. Rarely seen objects will be on display for visitors to enjoy, including a selection of 19th century animal portraits, which illustrate how plants, animals and landscape have all been subject to human intervention."

The new temporary exhibition opens on Tuesday July 10 2007. Will Phillips and Roy Brigden, Keeper of the Museum, have chosen objects and photos from MERL's archives to illustrate the history of debate about the clash between human activity and the natural world.

Topics covered include climate change, transport, recycling, renewable energy, food and water. Visitors will also be able to view short films from DEFRA, the Soil Association and other organisations and listen to interviews with leading experts, such as Professor Jonathan Gregory from the University of Reading's Meteorology Department, Brenda Boardman of the University of Oxford's Centre for the Environment, and Rob White of the Reading Green Party.

The theme will round off in October with a lecture from Jonathon Porritt, Programme Director of Forum for the Future and Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission.

The opening of the exhibition in July will be marked with a panel debate in which leading experts in this field, including Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture Magazine, Philip Koomen, designer of sustainable furniture and Paul Starkey, expert on sustainable issues in the developing world, will give a short talk and answer questions from the floor. The debate will be followed by a reception.

On Wednesday July 18, MERL will welcome Ben Law, who wrote 'The Woodland House', following his participation in the Channel 4 series Grand Designs. He will talk about his experiences and give a demonstration on sustainable living.

On Saturday August 4, MERL will hold a fun family event. The Summer Spectacular will take place in the newly-opened garden. It will be a day of craft demonstrations, talks, workshops and activities, enabling people from the Reading area to see how their life in the town or city is linked to farming and the countryside and to learn more about current issues such as climate change, food miles and recycling and what they can do help the environment.

For further details of all these events, and information about other talks and activities, such as October half term workshops, that will be added to the programme shortly, please contact Alison Hilton and keep an eye on

Finally, on Wednesday October 10, Jonathon Porritt, Programme Director of Forum for the Future and Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, will give the MERL lecture in the Great Hall at the University of Reading.

For more information or to book, please call the Museum of English Rural Life on 0118 378 8660 or email , or visit us in London Road, Reading.


Note for media: Media are welcome to attend any of the above events. If you wish to be sent an invitation to the panel debate, reception or lecture, please contact Alison Hilton, marketing officer, on 0118 378 8660

Notes for editors:

1. More information about the Museum of English Rural Life

The Museum of English Rural Life, in London Road, Reading, was founded by the University of Reading in 1951 to reflect and record the changing face of farming and the countryside. It houses designated collections of national importance that span the full range of objects, archives, photographs, film and books. Today, it forms part of the University's Museums and Collections Service. The Museum operates as a major resource and research centre for the history of food, farming and the countryside with links into the School of History and other academic departments at the University.

2. More information About the University of Reading

The University of Reading is one of the foremost research-led universities in the UK. Founded in the nineteenth century and gaining a Royal Charter in 1926, we offer a wide range of programmes from the pure and applied sciences to languages, social sciences and fine art. New research and the latest thinking continually feed into undergraduate teaching, with our academic staff working at the forefront of their fields of expertise.


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