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Reading MERL (Museum of English Rural Life) Awarded £3.3m

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The University of Reading has been awarded just over £3.3m over the next five years for the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) and its Special Collections by Research England.

The most recent higher education museums and galleries (HEMG) funding review outcome saw Reading double its previous funding to receive the fifth-largest award across all higher education institutions.

It also represented an increase in funding of more than 80% for the MERL compared to the last funding round, while our University’s Special Collections were funded for the first time.

The HEMG fund allocates £14m of financial support per year to higher education institutions to help them to serve wider external research communities.

The award recognises the outstanding contribution of the MERL and Special Collections to supporting national and international research alongside innovative collections-based teaching and learning, digital engagement and public programmes.

The funding will allow us to invest in research infrastructure that benefits the wider research community. For example, enhancing our digital systems that provide access to collections, promoting research partnerships, researcher services and our support for research impact and engagement.

Over the past funding period, this investment has helped MERL to support cross-disciplinary externally led research projects amounting to £3 million while supporting internally led projects worth £1 million.

Since 2016, staff have responded to 6,861 enquiries and provided research access to more than 29,665 items, with more than 78% of new users coming from the wider research community.

The new MERL website was relaunched in 2016 and has since welcomed more than half a million people to learn about our collections online.

Kate Arnold Forster, Director of University Museums and Special Collections Services at Reading, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Research England for recognising the quality of the University of Reading’s museums and special collections and the services we deliver through this increased funding award.

“I would like to pay tribute to and thank my colleagues for the dedication, innovation and tireless work that this expectational level of funding recognises.”

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