Event Review – Museum of English Rural Life [MERL]

As part of the Action Media initiative, we are working with the young people to gain Arts Awards. Part of the Arts Award qualification requires being an audience member at an arts event. This is a review of a visit that a number of young people from our Action Media Alternate Provision for school group attended.


Visit to the Museum of English Rural Life [MERL]
The University of Reading

A local museum, celebrating and recording the history of rural England.

We visited this museum as part of the Action Media programme [during early summer 2022].
We were doing a project about school and learning and the local museum was a helpful place to go to see an alternate way of learning – by interacting and seeing displays, physical objects to see and touch.


What we saw at the museum

Ben – Exhibitions/displays of old tractors, a steam traction engine and a lot of farming equipment. There were also various tools, and some models. There were interactive screens too.
Jaden – We saw a horse sculpture that was made out of sticks. There were loads of old tractors. There were interactive games on computer screens.
Kacey – I saw different tractors. I saw some weapons. Old clothes. Old books. Photos. Different exhibitions of different things.
Keane – We saw old vehicles – a land rover. Tractors. Old clothes. Old photos.  Old posters. Old books. All about the history of farming. Lots of old wagons. There was an interactive game – about farming, and one about sheep.
Loick – I saw really old pictures of people . Wheel barrows and tractors. Old farm machinery. Lots of tools.
Matthew – Lots of old stuff. Various farming equipment. Some nice old books. Writing on the walls about the history of the things on display. And an actual old Land Rover, and some nice old tractors. There were interactive screens – one was about sheep giving birth. You had to move the sheep to a pen.



What I liked about it

Ben – I liked the various olden style carts, and stuff like that, and the steam machinery. I liked the old posters and packaging.
Jaden – I liked the upstairs part – there were lots of different olden times clothes up there. Artefacts, including some furry shoes. I liked the horse sculpture too. I liked the interactive games. They were about farming animals. There was a big round interactive table with a quiz on. They made good use of the space they have. A lot packed in.
Kacey – The interactive games. They were fun. There was a sheep one, where you had to help the sheep give birth and not kill it. There was a quiz thing that was good, that was about history. And there was a thing that showed Caversham then and now.
Keane – The tractor outside to sit on. It was cool.
Loick – There were lots of areas for us to visit, which was very exciting. It’s an interesting building. The building looked really old. Artefacts. I liked the games on the ipads, they were fun – we played a sheep one – the sheep would breed with other sheep and we’d have to drag the sheep into the pens. Then it would get shipped off for money
Matthew – I liked seeing the old examples of the technical stuff – old machinery etc. It was nice seeing the old Land Rover. The interactive sheep giving birth game was good.


What I didn’t enjoy

Ben – I think they could do with a model, and some more plants and stuff, at the front outside – to increase advertising. The entrance was a bit low-key.
Matthew – Not being able to touch anything. I know a lot of young people my age – teenagers – would like to be able to do that. I think a section where you were able to touch the stuff that’s there would be good, instead of just having to look at it. It would be a bit more interactive.




Would you recommend it

Ben – Most likely yes. It’s a small museum, but is still good. Although it’s small, it’s still on the same level as other museums on it’s presentation. A good use of space.
Jaden – No. There are no dinosaurs. I think this museum is aimed at old people.
Kacey – Maybe, yeah. Because it’s actually fun. This museum is well laid out.  There are different levels. The outside space is nice. There is a tractor you can climb on. Just bring your own food.
Keane – Yes, the tractor is cool.
Loick – Yes. They could explore the olden times and understand what happened back then. I think it would appeal to elderly people.
Matthew – I think so, yeah. It’s a good museum, if you are into the old stuff around farming then this would be a good place to go.