Archive for ‘Archives’

July 27, 2012

Visit to the Museum of English Rural Life

Being an urbanite a visit to the Museum of English Rural Life was one where I found it difficult to form expectations. My experience of the country is one of simply passing through and a means of escape from the city. However I had only ever witness rural life on television or films and felt my knowledge to be very limited. To go as part of the professional visit meant I was prepared to take in as much as I was able.

The visit took place on Thursday 19th July. The new experiences started upon arrival to Reading. This was the first time I have walked through Reading and seen more than just the train station. It is a strikingly beautiful town and does not have that crowded (with regards to buildings) feeling of London.

 Not knowing what to expect from The Museum of English Rural Life none the less I was impressed. I believe it presented a very a specialised subject in a very considered way that drew you in. Although I was rather put out when greeted by a straw man, the kind you might find in grisly fairy tales and not the one helping Dorothy. However the straw moustache did soften its features a bit. This encounter only occurred after being welcomed by the friendly staff at the front desk.  

 We given were an insightful presentation and tour about the library and archives. I particularly liked that the library is housed in former student halls for residence making the spaces more private.

 The library and archives had a wonderful collection that was impressively diverse.

Some of the highlights of the collections we were shown included a farm diary from the 18th century, a first edition of the Origin of Species, a book on four legged beasts which included peculiar illustrations including an elephant with web like feet.

 I thought it was good that they had a discovery resource tool for searching the catalogues as the library and the archives collections are on two different systems.

 I liked how the Museum arranged its object collections by material which was an interesting way of displaying collections. I like the range of crafts that were on display, the clothes and the wagons. Our host rather intriguingly drew our attention to a mystery object which was made out of metal and had two small tennis-sized balls attached to a metal chain. We were informed that it could either be a curtain draw or sheep’s contraceptive.