The MERL is playing at farming
19 October 2023
A new ‘Model Farming’ gallery featuring over 150 farm toys has opened at The Museum of English Rural Life.
‘Model Farming’ at The MERL is the first public UK museum gallery devoted to farm toys, where visitors will be able to see over 150 carefully selected toys from the incredible collection of over 2500 items that was generously donated to the museum in 2019 by the collector, Peter Wade-Martins.
The displays use farm toys, alongside scale models and other artefacts, photos, and imagery to reveal the fascinating story of agricultural mechanisation.
The gallery was officially opened on Monday by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Robert Van de Noort who had the opportunity to explore the new displays and meet Peter Wade-Martins to find out more about the story of change in the countryside, as explored in the gallery.
Vice Chancellor Professor Robert van de Noort said: "It is wonderful to see The MERL continuing to develop its displays, providing new opportunities for visitors of all ages to learn about farming and the countryside, from children learning through play to academic researchers. We are very grateful to Peter for making this possible through his wonderful collection."
Peter Wade-Martins said: “I can’t think a better place for the collection to be than in this University Museum where it can now be seen as a teaching and a research collection.
"Putting the collection together over 20 years was partly re-living my childhood. My favourite toy was the red Dinky Massey Harris tractor with a muck spreader. I remember playing with one for hours, but I don’t remember what I used in the muck spreader in place of muck on my mother’s carpets!
"For it to be recognised as a national reference collection is the best possible outcome.”
Ollie Douglas, Curator of MERL Collections said: “No museum would ever be able to tell this complex story of agricultural mechanisation through full-sized objects. Modern tractors are very expensive and there is no way we could even fit a contemporary combine harvester in our building. We are incredibly lucky to have this unique resource to illustrate processes of change and the ways in which they were shared through play, through such detailed and engaging artefacts. The Peter Wade-Martins Collection has been carefully catalogued with the support of our brilliant conservation team, and meticulously photographed by a dedicated volunteer, so it is now also available to explore online."