The MERL works collaboratively with schools, colleges and their students to ensure relevant, creative and meaningful engagement. We work collaboratively on projects which adopt creative and innovative approaches to our collections and the curriculum. Here are some of examples of our past and present projects.

Diwali at The MERL and Reading Museum 2020

The Museum of English Rural Life and Reading Museum have been working with Kala the Arts, a leading dance organisation that specialises in the Odissi South Asian dance as part of an ambitious schools and community project in Reading.

As part of the project 3 local schools have taken online workshops in a series of dances relating to the story of Diwali. The story of Rama and Sita has been split into different scenes, each scene being depicted through movement and expression.

To support these workshops, we have developed a range of resources detailing the Story of Rama and Sita, Odissi dance expressions in body positions and hand shapes, objects in our collection linked to Diwali and decoration like Rangoli and Diya lamps. These resources connect cross-cultural celebration, dance and festival themes and can support the national curriculum in cultural capital, Religious Education and Physical Education.

Museums Partnership Reading logo

Examples of past projects include:

Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: Agriculture in Medieval Times

This partnership project between The Abbey School and the MERL was to adapt an existing scheme of work on Medieval Life. The collaboration resulted in the design and development of a learning programme using museum objects in the teaching of Medieval farming for Year Seven students. Over the Autumn Term, pupils engaged with object handling, used research skills to investigate primary and secondary sources and then used their knowledge to run a school debate and curate an exhibition in school.

The Full English Extra

This was a collaborative project with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and Arbour Vale School and the Reading Music Centre. The aim of this project was to see how the MERL collections can be used creatively to inspire folk music for a young audience. Two projects were undertaken:

Arbour Vale School

English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) artists worked collaboratively to deliver sessions over four Friday mornings. Using two songs about rural life as a starting point (Daddy Fox and A Country Boy), pupils in two Key Stage 3 classes and the school choir explored and developed the musical material using voices, instruments, movement and Makaton signing. The songs and photographs from the Museum were used as stimuli for cross-arts work, including creating soundscapes and making props, forming part of the final sharing performance.

Reading Music Centre String Orchestra

Working with the Director of the orchestra, EFDSS artists sourced musical material from the EFDSS digital archive which were accessible to string players and had plenty of potential for musical development. Over five Friday evening sessions, the players were introduced to the music through learning by ear. This encouraged them to work together, acknowledging and listening to each other and playing as a more effective ensemble. A final piece, using ideas from the string players, was worked into a soundtrack to accompany a film of a threshing machine, similar to one which forms part of the MERL’s collection.

Visit the EDFSS website to find out more about the project and discover the resources created.

Have a project in mind? Contact Phillippa Heath, Learning and Engagement Manager, on p.heath2@reading.ac.uk to discuss further.