In the midst of the crisis we find ourselves in, it seems that, more than ever, many people have been turning to memes and viral tweets to punctuate days spent inside, distanced from family and friends, with a bit of relief and humor. Among the best and most under appreciated art world Twitter accounts you might consult for a laugh these days is that of the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading, England. Though the institution itself has closed temporarily due to the pandemic, its eccentric contributions to the digital realm continue apace.
Avid followers of the museum’s tweets (@TheMERL) will know that looking through the account’s past content can yield hours of joy. What you’ll find in its feed are black-and-white photos of livestock and farmers, vintage drawings of truly monumental pigs, and, occasionally, images and videos of farm animals captured more recently. All of these posts are paired with the voice of a savvy social media manager who has an uncanny ability to imbue archival materials devoted to English farm life with newfound relevance and spirit.
One of the account’s most memorable moments came last year, when Elon Musk made one of the museum’s vintage images of sheep his Twitter profile picture. The MERL countered the odd move with a characteristically playful adjustment to its own profile icon, adding “Two can play at this game.”
Some recent highlights have included an image of someone holding variously sized ears of corn with the caption “choose your fighter,” and another showing a smartly mustached man with the words “coffee: BREWED, hat: ADORNED, buttons: BUTTONED, moustache: STURDY AS A DRY STONE WALL.”
In recent days, the MERL has tailored its posts for the age of Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype calls. A post on Thursday showing nine old photos of chickens and egg cartons comes with the comment “the museum chicken group’s first Zoom call has descended into complete anarchy as the chicken-or-the-egg debacle rages fiercely on.”
Let the MERL help you find a bit of lightness in the blank stares of sheep, the manic movements of birds, and the sleepy eyes of Loppy, the museum’s charismatic donkey.