Reading museums set to reopen

Two of Reading's much-loved museums are set to reopen this month.

Museums Partnership Reading is delighted to announce the reopening of Reading Museum and The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) on Tuesday 18 May.  

Both Reading Council and the University of Reading have been working hard to reopen their respective museums as soon as possible, with visitor welfare at the forefront of all their plans. 

In line with the government’s roadmap, both museums are ready to welcome visitors back into their galleries now that indoor attractions are permitted to reopen. The gift shops at both museums have been open since 12 April, and The MERL has also been able to open its café and garden.

Both museums are delighted to be reopening and have used the months of closure to work on new and exciting things to do and see. In the Sir John Madejski Art Gallery at Reading Museum, the long-awaited new exhibition of artwork from the University of Reading Art Collections ‘Rubens to Sickert: The Story of Drawing’ also opens on 18th May. This Museums Partnership Reading exhibition was originally planned for 2020 and opened online last month. Visitors will also be able to see the wonderful 'Oh Beautiful World! Sculpture' for the first time, inspired by the moment when Oscar Wilde stepped out of Reading Gaol after his imprisonment in 1897, and famously declared: ‘Oh, beautiful world!’. Find out more about these exhibitions.

Visitors to The MERL will be able to see a newly displayed wall-hanging from the 1951 Festival of Britain. A wonderful 5x7m depiction of Cheshire replaces the Kent tapestry in the Our Country Lives gallery as part of the Museum's 70th anniversary project '51 Voices'. 

With all the safety measures established as part of Visit Britain’s ‘Good to Go’ Industry Standard in 2020 still in place at both museums, visitors can be assured of an enjoyable and safe visit.

You will need to book timed entry slots in advance via both museum’s websites. From 18 May, if you cannot access bookings online you can call, during opening hours 0118 9373400 for Reading Museum and 0118 378 8661 for The MERL. 

Reading Museum and shop will be open Tuesday to Saturday 10am – 4pm.  

The MERL, including the shop, café and garden will be open Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and Saturday and Sundays from 10am to 5pm. The Special Collections reading room will be also be open for pre-booked researchers, Tuesday to Friday, 9.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4.00pm.

To help welcome all visitors back, staff and volunteers will be on hand to explain the changes that have been put in place and to answer any questions. Visitors will be asked to observe social distancing, wear a face covering (unless exempt), use the hand-sanitiser and to check in via the NHS Test and Trace app. At busier times, it may be necessary to queue so that numbers can be monitored inside. Once in the galleries, there are one-way systems to follow throughout.

Full details of each museum’s opening arrangements and safety measures can be found on their websites at:

Reading Town Hall commercial conferencing and events service and Concert Hall will also reopen from 18 May in line with central government guidance.