Press Releases

Ceremony celebrates multi-million pound museum development – University of Reading

Release Date : 16 January 2004

Construction work on the new £10.5million site for the nationally-recognised Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) will take a significant step forward on Monday 19 January. Berkshire dignitary and University Council member, Mr Andrew Palmer, will be lifted up and lay a roof tile on the new development, which has been funded by £5.17million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and generous financial assistance from the University of Reading and a host of organisations and individuals. Due to move from its current location at the University's Whiteknights campus in 2005, the new museum will offer superb facilities for the display of its internationally important collections, with much improved conditions for storage and conservation. Located at the former St Andrew's Hall of Residence, the existing building will house archive, book and photographic collections along with enhanced visitor facilities, including a new reading room and space for temporary exhibitions and interactive displays. A large new building going up next to the original structure will contain the extensive artefact collections. These include a broad range of objects relating to farming, rural crafts and industries, and country life. Many of the items – such as farm wagons, horse-drawn ploughs, machinery and tools – date from the period 1850 to 1950. Professor Michael Fulford, Chairman of the MERL Advisory Committee, said: ’The museum has long been renowned as an academic research centre and a resource for everyone interested in the countryside. ’This new site, being developed by Mansell, will do full justice to our collections. It will safeguard the unique collections for future generations and provide a new level of public access with facilities to support a year-round programme of workshops, activities and educational sessions.’ On Monday 19 January, members of the MERL Advisory Committee will also meet and be taken on a tour of the new museum site. End Notes for editors -Mr Andrew Palmer, CMG, CVO was educated at Winchester College and Pembroke College, Cambridge where he obtained an MA in History. He served in the Diplomatic Service 1961–95. Overseas, he and his wife Davina served in La Paz, Ottawa, Paris and Oslo, before he was appointed Ambassador to Cuba (1986–88), and to the Holy See in Rome (1991–95). He was Private Secretary to TRH The Duke and Duchess of Kent (on secondment) 1988–90, and is now Extra Equerry to the Duke. Andrew Palmer's great-grandfather Alfred was President of the University Council 1926–30, as was his uncle Gerald from 1966-70. He joined the Council in 1996 and was first appointed to the (then) Standing Committee in 1997. -MERL Advisory Committee membership Chair: Professor Michael Fulford Mr Andrew Palmer - Member of Council. Mr David Pearson - Museums Manager, Reading Museum Service. Mr John Tuck - Head of British Collections, British Library. Professor Mark Overton Professor of Economic & Social History, University of Exeter. Dr Nichola Johnson - Director, Sainsbury Centre, UEA. Mr Robin Evans - Chief Executive, British Waterways. Mr Richard Harris - Museum Director, Weald & Downland Open Air Museum. Ms Sue Donnelly - Archivist, LSE Library. Mrs Annette Haworth - Director of Information Services. Dr Nick Atkin - Head of the School of History. Ms Kate Arnold-Forster - Head of the University Museums and Collections Services. Dr Roy Brigden - Museum Keeper. Professor Philip John - School of Plant Sciences. Professor Bob Chapman - Head of the Department of Archaeology. Ms Sarah Sims - Secretary. -Any journalists wishing to attend the ceremony on Monday 19 January, should contact Craig Hillsley, University of Reading press officer. Tel: 0118 378 8005 E-mail:


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