Virtual Visit

After re-opening for a couple of months, the museum is now closed again for the duration of the national lockdown.  Luckily, you can still enjoy a virtual visit.  On this page, we’ve gathered together some ideas for ways to explore the galleries, our collections and some of our events and activities, which will remain online.

Visit The MERL online

Explore the galleries

On each of our gallery pages, you’ll find a brief introduction to the theme of each gallery, and a 360 photo to allow to have a look around the gallery. It’s not quite the same as being there in person, but you can get a good idea of the artefacts on display.

The MERL Curator of Collections, Dr Ollie Douglas introduces the Welcome Case, A Year on the Farm and the Town and Country galleries in this ‘Introduction to The MERL’ youtube playlist

You can also get a closer look at selected artefacts and archive images in ‘Discover’

Take a Virtual Tour

The MERL Google Streetview tour was created a couple of years ago, so the eagle-eyed regular visitor will notice a few differences, as we are always adding new objects and activities to the galleries, but this is a great way to take a quiet walk through the galleries without leaving the house!

The tour below is made up of a series of 360° photographs that take you around the Museum and our garden. Start the tour by clicking here or using the window below, and then navigate around the Museum by clicking around or using the arrow keys on your keyboard. It is best viewed on desktop.

Explore exhibitions online

We have a regular programme of temporary exhibitions at the MERL, which are usually in-gallery installations by artists and researchers, or displays highlighting the breadth of the MERL and other University Special Collections. We have created new online exhibitions recently, including Wagons: along the road we go and you can find more online exhibitions that explore our collections in depth.


We are making the University of Reading’s collections accessible online in lots of ways; see our digital access guide

Take part in online events

After cancelling so many of our events this year, we were really hoping to be able to bring you a couple of exciting onsite events this term, but sadly lockdown means we’re back online only! You can find details of our digital programme on our What’s On page, but here are a few ideas:

GLOW: A MERL Late for the Being Human Festival

Join us online for GLOW: A MERL Late for the Being Human Festival on 19th November.

Friday Fledglings

We’re missing our Friday Fledglings, but session leaders Charlotte and Fong are delivering activities and ideas for outdoor learning for under-5s every Friday morning via a new MERL Facebook group.  You can find activities from previous sessions here. We hope to welcome you back into the MERL garden soon.

I, Sheep

I, Sheep is a filmpoem created across two years, through close collaboration between film, performance and poetry makers. By interlacing poetry, film and performance, I, Sheep explores the relationship between a sheep called Jess and a poet called Jack.

Read more and watch the filmpoem here.

Land Girls

Lots of information and activities for families inspired by the Land Girls online exhibition.

Seminar Series: Designing Landscapes for the People

Watch recordings of a series of talks given during lockdown by leading figures in landscape architecture today. Find out about the series.

Try out online activities

Object Handling at Home

Our Curator of Collections has devised some fascinating ways of understanding the MERL collections through ‘object handling’ sessions at home. Have a go yourself and find out more about bee skeps, smocks, farm toys and Women’s Land Army shoes.


Talking of smocks, if you’re a Animal Crossing player, you might like to try out our #AnimerlCrossing activity and see what other players have created…

Become a Virtual Shepherd

We can’t travel to the countryside during lockdown, but this is one way of escaping to Dartmoor! Watch the 360 video of a modern-day shepherd riding a quad bike over Dartmoor, and find out how the film was made. The films are both in on our Virtual Reality Youtube playlist

Lose yourself in the seasons

If you have visited The MERL, you will be familiar with the beautiful animation of a forest scene through the seasons, whether you’ve watched it on loop with an enthralled child, or just be surprised by the sound of thunder while you enjoyed your tea in the cafe! You can now watch an immersive 360 version of the animation via the new MERL app. Find the download links on the ‘Shaping the Land’ gallery page.

Learn with The MERL

Designed for use by teachers in schools and colleges, these resources are an incredible source of ideas to help you explore subjects as diverse as history, science, art and geography with your children at home.

Follow us on social media

Although the museum is closed, we’re continuing to share entertaining and informative content inspired by our collections through social media.

Join us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Explore beyond The MERL

Did you know that the University of Reading is home to an incredible variety of collections? You can now explore them all on the new Museums and Collections website…but give yourself some time!!

We also work closely with Reading Museum as part Museums Partnership Reading, an Arts Council England funded programme. Explore Reading Museum’s digital resources here.

And if you’re interested in going further afield on your online travels, why not take a virtual trip along the Great West Way.