Museum Celebrates Official Launch of New Story of Reading and Welcome Galleries

READING MUSEUM is celebrating the official launch of its Story of Reading and Welcome Galleries on Tuesday 28th May.

The galleries will be officially opened at 9.45am by people with objects featured in the new gallery and historical costumed characters. The galleries will then be open to the public from 10am.

The first part of the Story of Reading gallery launched in February 2018 and focused on the history of the Abbey, leading up to its closure in 1539 and the impact of the English Civil War.

New Welcome and Story of Reading Gallery Launch

The new Story of Reading gallery explores life after the Abbey and the development of the modern town. Highlights in the new gallery collection include many objects that have previously been in store, including:

·         Inlaid straw decorated box dating from 1813, made by a Napoleonic French prisoner of war lodged in the stables of the Saracen’s Head Inn;

·         The Statue of Queen Victoria’s fingertip which was blown off during a bombing raid on the town in 1943;

·         Ann Packer’s Athletics Medal. The Olympic gold medallist trained with Reading Athletic Club at Palmer Park. She collected this 100 yards championship winner’s medal in 1956;

·         Barbados Rum Tea Towel, early 1960s: Learie Hampden recalls playing on the beach on the morning of his departure from Barbados for a new life in Reading. He travelled with this tea towel in his suitcase, a parting gift from his grandmother.

The new Welcome Gallery highlights the full range of the Museum’s collections showcasing objects that explore Reading’s global links through history, with hands on object handling and pop-up displays.

There will be lots of activities on offer at the Museum during the May half term programme, including ‘The Greatest Knight’ inspired art craft workshops, discover the Abbey Quarter trails, Victorian Schoolroom Experience in the Abbey Gateway and Make & Take Air Dry Clay workshops. Find out more at

Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, said: 

“I’m delighted the new Story of Reading and Welcome Galleries are complete and ready to open. The new galleries complement the other major openings for the Reading Abbey Revealed project last year and bring the Story of Reading up to date to modern times.

“The motto of “Keeping Reading, Reading,” is something that I take very seriously. These galleries deliver well to that ideal and our new displays provide a good representation of what people told us Reading meant to them.

“I would highly encourage residents to visit the new gallery and learn more about the heritage of the town. There is also a fun packed week to look forward to during the half term with many activities on offer for the whole family to enjoy. Make sure you come along and join in.

“This opening is also part of the wider exciting investment and transformation that has been taking place within the town hall, with more major improvements still to come which will enhance the facilities this venue has to offer, including the much anticipated Pantry Café and Kitchen opening soon. We envisage the town hall and museum acting as a ‘gateway’ information point for visitors to the quarter and to the wider town.”

The new galleries are part of the major transformation work taking place at Reading Town Hall and Museum, that has included the move of the register office’s ceremony room (for marriages, civil partnerships and naming ceremonies) to its new location in the former box room gallery of the museum, and will also shortly see the creation of a new museum shop and town hall reception, as well as the complete refurbishment of the former 3Bs Café, opening during the summer as ‘The Pantry Café and Kitchen’. Reading Council is making the best possible use of its buildings to help reduce running costs and contribute to closing the budget gap, as well as providing a better services to residents.

The gallery launch complements a series of major openings including The Abbey Gateway in April 2018 and reopening of Reading’s oldest gem, the Abbey Ruins, in June 2018, following a three year, £3.15 million conservation project.

The galleries represent the starting point for visitors to explore the Abbey Quarter and discover the wider interpretation of the area.

Both the display and Reading Museum are free to visit. For more information, visit and



Photo opportunity: Members of the media are invited to a photo call at 9.45am at Reading Museum on Tuesday May 28th



Victoria Nickless

For media enquiries about this release email or call 0118 937 3957