The objects, archives, books, journals, photographs and films held by the Museum of English Rural Life document our changing landscape and the impact of people on the environment.
Recently we have made a particular effort to enrich the collections with objects that have a greater focus on ideas, opinions and perceptions within and about rural places and people, through the Collecting 20th Century Rural Cultures project.
Archive and library collections cover landscape and the rural environment particularly well: these include the records of three very long-running pressure groups: the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Open Spaces Society and the Campaign for National Parks.
Added to these are the collections received from the Landscape Institute, a UK professional body that works to improve the planning and design of the urban and rural landscape, accredit university courses and promote the professional development of landscape architects. The library includes books and journals about landscape architecture, garden history and landscape and urban planning. Alongside these are the records of the Institute itself and associated archive collections of several significant landscape architects.
The University’s connection with landscape, the rural and the environment is very long-standing. Its strong focus, since the late nineteenth century, on teaching and research in agriculture led to the establishment of the Museum of English Rural Life in 1951.
Environmental research is centre stage in the University today. The impact of climate change on rural and urban communities is a major factor and the collections are being used to highlight these issues, with the impact of flooding revealed in this blog post and the Gambling with Floods installation.
Issues of access to open spaces have been explored in our recent collaboration with the Open Spaces Society.
The MERL regularly holds seminars, conferences, and workshops, relating to rural life and work; people and landscapes; crafts and cultures. these include series organised jointly with FOLAR.
Sylvia Crowe archive
Dame Sylvia Crowe was a leading international landscape architect and writer. She worked with landscapes of hugely diverse scale, from small garden details to hundreds or acres of new towns and forestry.
One of the longest standing environmental pressure groups in the UK, The Campiagn to Protect Rural England began life in 1926. Its vast archive includes oral history interviews with some pioneering campaigners, as well as many photographs, watercolouyrs and ephemera.
In this online exhibition you will find just a few examples of different ways in which rural practices impact on physical and mental wellbeing as well as contemporary first-hand accounts of what it’s like to live in rural Britain.