Press Releases

Tiny world brought to life at University Museum – University of Reading

Release Date : 05 November 2007

A new exhibition focussing on models and miniatures opens tomorrow (November 6) at The University of Reading's Museum of English Rural Life.

The temporary exhibitiion - 'A Small World: models and miniatures from the MERL collections' - will bring together some fascinating scale models, miniatures, toys and more from the Museum's collections.

Will Phillips, Museum Officer, who has been responsible for putting the new exhibition together, said: "Small-scale objects are often appealing to the eye. Those on display in our new exhibition are no exception, from the beautifully painted model gypsy caravan to a series of Victorian silhouettes.

"However, scale models and miniatures can also serve a variety of practical functions. Some are robust toys designed to be played with, such as the model tractor; others demonstrate the skill and dextrous handiwork of craftspeople. Models can be educational, illustrating the evolution in styles or technologies and some are historically significant objects in their own right.

"The variety of objects in this exhibition is what makes it so fascinating. Many of the models have never been displayed before so this is a great opportunity for the public to see some of the interesting and unusual gems from the MERL collections."

A feature of the exhibition will be one of the Museum's most recent acquisitions, a model of a steam engine and threshing machine. It was bequeathed, unfinished, to the Museum in August 2005, making it the first object to be donated after the Museum moved to its new location in Redlands Road.

Other examples of items on display include a model of a 17th century character in the stocks for 'for being drunk on a Sunday', made in 1966 by Cicely Hey; a Tri-ang toy tractor, which was given as a birthday present to the donor in the 1950s; and a plaster model of a Shorthorn Bull made in c. 1800 by George Garrard. This is an example of a model made to serve a specific purpose. Garrard produced models of many different breeds of cattle, sheep and pigs, during an era of intense livestock improvement. He hoped that the exactness of his models would act as a standard by which breeders and judges could identify the best stock. The bull on show in the exhibition was from the Royal herd at Windsor and was a massive 7ft7inches long. Today these models provide a truly accurate, 3D view of farm animals before the age of photography.

The exhibition runs from November 6 2007 to March 2 2008 at the Museum of English Rural Life. Opening times are Tuesday to Friday 9am to 5pm and 2 to 4.30pm at weekends. The Museum is closed from December 24 to January 1 2008.


Note for media:

If you wish to visit the exhibition, please contact Alison Hilton, marketing officer, on 0118 378 5626 or 0118 378 8660 or email

Notes for editors:

1. More information about the Museum of English Rural Life

The Museum of English Rural Life, in Redlands 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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