Fellowship Scheme

The MERL Fellowship Scheme is open to researchers wishing to make use of the Museum’s collection in their research.

It is designed to enhance understanding of our diverse holdings. Most awards are made in response to an annual application process.

Recent and ongoing Fellowships have been endowed to commemorate the late Gwyn E. Jones, who was based at the University of Reading and was connected to the work of the Museum.

The MERL Fellowships 2018-9

Suzanne Joinson was awarded the Gwyn E. Jones MERL Fellowship in April 2108. Suzanne is an award-winning writer with two novels published by Bloomsbury (The Photographer’s Wife and A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar) as well as essays, reviews and travel pieces published in a range of places including the New York Times, Guardian, and the Independent. She won the Creative Non-Fiction New Writing Ventures Award and has been long-listed for the IMPAC award. She has been a writer in residence at Beijing Raffles, Shoreham Airport and the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum. She is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester and has a strong interest in landscape, nature and travel.

Outline of proposal

“For the Gwyn E. Jones MERL Fellowship I will be researching and writing a nature and landscape memoir called Sheepcombe: A Reckoning. Sheepcombe is a stretch of downland near Findon village, West Sussex, close to where I live. It has been connected to sheep for centuries and my proposal is to walk and research this area and to produce a nature monograph and two essays in the spirit of the poet Patrick Kavanagh who said, ‘to know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience.’

Sheepcombe: A Reckoning will be an evocation of the local landscape, asking questions such as how do I make a local landscape comprehensible and how has the landscape evolved around sheepfolds and grazing practices and what do they mean today?

Exploring the available archival material at MERL, I aim to unearth the stories at play in the land with a view to eventually understanding whether I can ever feel at home in this land. The central question, which the MERL materials can play a strong role in answering, is how am I connected to this ‘sheep-wrecked’ place, to both its present and its past?”

For updates and more information about Suzanne’s work, find her on twitter at @suzyjoinson and @humanities_chi

About the current fellowships

Gwyn E. Jones MERL Fellowship

The Gwyn E. Jones MERL Fellowship has been generously endowed to commemorate the life and work of the late Gwyn E. Jones, who served for many years as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development here at the University of Reading. He was directly involved in the work of the Museum for a number of years as a member of the MERL Advisory Committee.

The intention for this Fellowship is to create an opportunity for a researcher to develop and disseminate new work in the broad arena of rural research. Applications should aim to perpetuate Gwyn Jones’ own passion for the study of rural matters, and to reflect the spirit of his contributions to this field. We would urge potential applicants to look at the list of Fellowships awarded and completed (see below), and to explore potential for connectivity with current and ongoing activity at the MERL.

The Poultry Club of Great Britain MERL Fellowship

The Poultry Club of Great Britain MERL Fellowship has been generously donated by the Club in memory of Graham and Janet Starkey. The award coincides with the donation by the Club to the MERL of the David Scrivener Collection. The Poultry Club of Great Britain was founded in 1877.  It is a registered charity existing to safeguard the interests of all pure and traditional breeds of poultry including chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys.

The David Scrivener collection contains a wealth of material relating to poultry keeping, health and breeding.  This includes post cards, cigarette cards, prints, journals, pamphlets, and books. Further poultry-related material may be found throughout the MERL collections.

How to apply

Applicants should submit:

  • a CV
  • written proposal (of up to 1000 words)
  • breakdown of expenditure for the stipend requested
  • Applicants should also ensure that references have been provided by two referees by 15 April 2018 (see submission details below).

Submission details

Applications should clearly state which Fellowship is being applied for.

Applicants are responsible for ensuring that references reach the Museum by the closing date. References should be submitted by email, with the applicant’s name added clearly to the subject line. Applicants should ensure that referees are familiar with the content of their proposal and are able to comment directly on their ability to deliver the work outlined. In instances where the applicants have an institutional affiliation, applicants should seek references from external sources.

Applicants should provide details of plans for the dissemination of their research programme, including publication and the preparation of research funding proposals to further their work on the Museum collections. They may wish to include one or more examples of ways in which they would hope to disseminate their research by way of the Museum’s own academic and public programmes. Applications should be submitted by email, with the applicant’s name added clearly to the subject line.

We would strongly encourage applicants to contact us in advance for an informal discussion about ways in which their work might connect with ongoing activities at the Museum or with particular collections. For further informal enquiries please email or call the Museum on 0118 378 8660.

You may find it useful to make use of the Museum’s online catalogue to search the collections.

Assessment of applications will be by a process of peer review and by an expert panel, with the successful candidate being expected to submit a report on completion of their Fellowship.

Past The MERL Fellows

2016-17 Antonia Bruce – First Foods artist residency

2014-15 Karen Sayer – Rat control on British farms

2013-14 Chris Green – Historical dictionary of agricultural hand tools

2012-13 Rachel Worth – Rural working-class dress, 1850-1900

2011-12 Keith Grieves – Forestry and remembrance after the First World War

2011-12 Joseph Hodge – Agricultural extension and tropical agriculture

2010-11 John Martin – Extreme weather and agriculture from 1947 to 1976

2009-10 Hilary Crowe – Farm Management Survey, 1930s-70s

2008-09 Clare Griffiths – Images of farmers and farming in war and peace

2007-08 David Viner – Reassessing farm wagon collections

2006-07 Richard Tranter – Interwar agricultural depression and the Berkshire Downs

2005-06 Andrew Godley – Development of the supermarket chicken industry

2005-06 Richard Bonser – The changing shape of the chicken

2005-06 Nicola Verdon – Women in twentieth century agriculture