Museum of English Rural Life - The Guardian
Museum of English Rural Life reopens with mouse as big attraction
Monday 17 October 2016 15.10 BST
Reading museum’s £3m refit means it can display all its 25,000 objects – including an unlucky rodent caught in a Victorian trap
When the Museum of English Rural Life reopens this week after a £3m Heritage Lottery-backed redevelopment, it will have all its 25,000 objects on display – plus a new acquisition that came to them by itself. The mouse that crept into a Victorian trap in the stores, and died there while the museum was closed, has been preserved and added to the collection.
“The mouse has become one of our most famous objects,” the senior curator, Isabel Hughes, said. “When the poor little thing was found the tweet went round the world, we even made Canadian television.”
The new displays bring the story of country life up to the present day. The collection was begun in the 1950s when Reading University staff realised how fast the countryside around them was changing, and it now takes in far more than tractors and horse-drawn ploughs. Another new display is a colourful but spectacularly tattered outfit worn by the environmental campaigner Jim Hindle, when he camped in a treehouse in an attempt to stop the building of the Newbury bypass in Berkshire. The nine-mile (14km) stretch of road required the felling of 10,000 trees, and in 1996 Hindle camped in the branches of one of them, the Middle Oak. The roof was too low for him to stand, which is why the knees of his trousers took such heavy wear.