Here at Special Collections, we’re linked to the collections and work of the Museum of English Rural Life. Our visitors may be interested in this year’s MERL Seminar Series, which focuses on women and the countryside. For further information, see the MERL Seminars page.
Looking for Lavinia: An American collector in 1930s Berkshire
Dr Bridget Yates, Independent Researcher, and Dr Ollie Douglas, Assistant Curator, Museum of English Rural Life
- Tuesday 29 October
- 4.30 to 6pm
During the 1930s, an American woman called Lavinia Smith formed a museum of ‘Old Village Life’ and ‘Bygones’ in her home in the English village of East Hendred. After her death the collection passed to the local Education Authority and eventually to MERL. With the generous support of the Arts Council England and with the help of our friends at Champs Chapel Museum and in the community where she lived and collected, MERL’s ‘Reading Connections’ project has begun to reveal for the first time how and why Lavinia Smith came to establish this collection.
Lady Eve Balfour: farmer or Bright Young Thing?
Dr Erin Gill, Writer and Researcher
- Tuesday 12th November
- 4.30 to 6pm
One of the first women to study agriculture at Reading, Eve Balfour farmed in East Suffolk during the interwar years. Today known as the founder of the Soil Association, in the 1920s and 1930s Eve combined farming with playing in a Jazz band, writing detective novels, and experimenting with Ouija boards. Was she a proper farmer? Or was she one of the era’s ‘Bright Young Things’ who played at farming? Dr Erin Gill’s doctoral thesis focuses on the career of Lady Eve Balfour and her contribution to the organic food and farming movement. She is involved in the AHRC-funded ‘Histories of Environmental Change’ network.
Visit Dr Erin Gill’s website.