The Ashmolean Museum (in full the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology) on Beaumont Street, Oxford, was the world's first university museum. Its first building was erected in 1678–1683 to house the cabinet of curiosities that Elias Ashmole gave to the University of Oxford in 1677. The museum reopened in 2009 after a major redevelopment. In November 2011, new galleries focusing on Egypt and Nubia were also unveiled. The collection includes that of Elias Ashmole which he had collected himself, including objects he had acquired from the gardeners, travelers, and collectors John Tradescant the elder and his son, John Tradescant the younger. The collection included antique coins, books, engravings, geological specimens, and zoological specimens - one of which was the stuffed body of the last dodo ever seen in Europe; but by 1755 the stuffed dodo was so moth-eaten that it was destroyed, except for its head and one claw. The museum opened on 24 May 1683, with naturalist Robert Plot as the first keeper. The first building, which became known as the Old Ashmolean, is sometimes attributed to Sir Christopher Wren or Thomas Wood.
After the various specimens had been moved into new museums, the "Old Ashmolean" building on Broad Street was used as office space for the Oxford English Dictionary. Since 1924, the building has been established as the Museum of the History of Science, with exhibitions including the scientific instruments given to Oxford University by Lewis Evans (1853–1930), amongst them the world's largest collection of astrolabes. The present building dates from 1841–45. It was designed by Charles Cockerell in a classical style and stands on Beaumont Street. One wing of the building is occupied by the Taylor Institution, the modern languages faculty of the university, standing on the corner of Beaumont Street and St Giles' Street. This building dates from 1845–48 and was also designed by Charles Cockerell, using the Ionic order of Greek architecture. The main museum contains huge collections of archaeological specimens and fine art. It has one of the best collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, majolica pottery, and English silver. The archaeology department includes the bequest of Arthur Evans and so has an excellent collection of Greek and Minoan pottery. The department also has an extensive collection of antiquities from Ancient Egypt and the Sudan, and the museum hosts the Griffith Institute for the advancement of Egyptology.
Highlights of the Ashmolean's collection include: Drawings by Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci; Paintings by Pablo Picasso, Giambattista Pittoni, Paolo Uccello, Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, Paul Cézanne, John Constable, Titian, Claude Lorrain, Samuel Palmer, John Singer Sargent, Piero di Cosimo, William Holman Hunt and Edward Burne-Jones; The Alfred Jewel; Watercolours and paintings by Turner; The Messiah Stradivarius, a violin made by Antonio Stradivari; The Pissarro Family Archive, consisting of paintings, prints, drawings, books, and letters by Camille Pissarro, Lucien Pissarro, Orovida Camille Pissarro, and other members of the Pissarro family; Arab ceremonial dress owned by Lawrence of Arabia; A death mask of Oliver Cromwell; A substantial number of Oxyrhynchus Papyri, including Old and New Testament biblical manuscripts; Over 30 pieces of Late Roman gold glass roundels from the Catacombs of Rome; A collection of Posie rings; An extensive collection of antiquities from Prehistoric Egypt and the succeeding Early Dynastic Period of Egypt; The Parian Marble, the earliest extant example of a Greek chronological table; The Metrological Relief, showing Ancient Greek measurements; The ceremonial cloak of Chief Powhatan; The lantern that Gunpowder Plot conspiracist Guy Fawkes carried in 1605; The Minoan collection of Arthur Evans, the biggest outside Crete; The Narmer Macehead and Scorpion Macehead; The Kish tablet; The Abingdon Sword, an Anglo-Saxon sword found at Abingdon south of Oxford; The Dalboki hoard of Thracian artefacts, central Bulgaria and The Scythian antiquities from Nymphaeum, Crimea.
Major exhibitions and temporary displays in 2016 include: Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas: Open from June until September 2016, this exhibition will explore the roots of Sicily's multi-cultural heritage through the discoveries made by underwater archaeologists – from chance finds to excavated shipwrecks. The exhibition will also feature what has been described as a "flat pack" Byzantine church interior, intended for assembly at its destination, with marble items raised from a wreck off the southeast coast of Sicily in the 1960s by archaeologist Gerhard Kapitan. Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural: Open from October 2016 until January 2017, this is the first major exhibition to explore the supernatural in the art of the Islamic world. The exhibition includes objects and works of art from the 12th to the 20th century, from Morocco to China, which have been used as sources of guidance and protection in the dramatic events of human history. These include dream-books, talismanic charts and amulets.
There is disabled access throughout the Museum, with ramps into the building, lifts to all floors and wheelchairs are available. They can arrange free touch tours and description tours for visitors with visual impairments and those who need an accompanied visit. There are also events scheduled regularly for visually impaired and hearing impaired visitors – pick up a copy of What’s On for details. If you need assistance or if your mobility is impaired, please ask the Visitor Service Assistants for help. They are stationed throughout the Museum. There are public toilets, including wheelchair accessible facilities, throughout the Museum. There is no public telephone in the Museum. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location :Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH
Transport : Oxford (National Rail) then 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 2, 6, 14, 14A and 17 stop close by. Bus station is 5 minutes away.
Opening Times : Tuesday to Sunday + Bank Holidays 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free
Tel. : 01865 278000
The Bate Collection of Musical Instruments is a collection of historic musical instruments, mainly for Western classical music, from the medieval period onwards. It is housed in Oxford University's Faculty of Music near Christ Church on St. Aldate's. The collection is open to the public and is available for academic study by appointment. There are frequent gallery events and special exhibitions. More than a thousand instruments by important English, French and German makers, are on display, showing the musical and mechanical development of wind and percussion instruments from the Renaissance to the current day. The collection is named after Philip Bate who gave his collection of musical instruments to the University of Oxford in 1968, on the condition that it was used for teaching and was provided with a specialist curator to care for and lecture on it.The collection also houses an archive of his papers.
There are on display more than a thousand instruments, by all the most important English, French and German makers, which show the musical and mechanical development of all wind and percussion instruments from the Renaissance and the Baroque to modern times. There is a special exhibition, "Fiddlesticks" running from the 3rd to the 30th of September 2016 on the subject of violin bows. The Bate Collection is arranged over two floors, only one of which is accessible to visitors who need level access. Space may be tight for some wheelchair users, and the public entrance to the collection is down a gravel pathway. Assistance dogs are welcome. There are no on site disabled toilets.
Location : Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Faculty of Music, St Aldate's, Oxford, OX1 1DB
Transport : Oxford (National Rail) then bus or 20 minutes. Bus Routes : 1, 3, 4, 16, 31, 34 and 35 stop close by. Bus station is 5 minutes away.
Opening Times : Monday to Friday 14:00 to 17:00; Termtime Saturdays 10:00 to 12:00
Tickets : Free
Tel. : 01865 276128
The Museum of the History of Science in Broad Street, Oxford holds a leading collection of scientific instruments from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. The museum building is also known as the Old Ashmolean Building to distinguish it from the newer Ashmolean Museum building completed in 1894. The museum was built in 1683 to house Elias Ashmole's collection, and it is the world's oldest surviving purpose-built museum. The original concept of the museum was to institutionalize the new learning about nature that appeared in the 17th century and experiments concerning natural philosophy were undertaken in a chemical laboratory in the basement, while lectures and demonstration took place in the School of Natural History, on the middle floor. Ashmole's collection was expanded to include a broad range of activities associated with the history of natural knowledge and in 1924 the gift of Lewis Evans' collection allowed the museum further improvement, becoming the Museum of the History of Science and appointing Robert Gunther as its first curator.
The collection and the building itself now occupies a special position in the study of the history of science and in the development of western culture and collecting. One of the most iconic objects in the collection is Einstein's Blackboard that Albert Einstein used on 16 May 1931 in his lectures while visiting the University of Oxford, rescued by dons including E. J. Bowen and Gavin de Beer. The current collection contains around 18,000 objects from antiquity to the early 20th century, representing almost all aspects of the history of science and is used for both academic study and enjoyment by the visiting public. The museum contains a wide range of scientific instruments, such as quadrants, astrolabes (the most complete collection in the world with c.170 instruments), sundials, early mathematical instruments (used for calculating, astronomy, navigation, surveying and drawing), optical instruments (microscopes, telescopes and cameras), equipment associated with chemistry, natural philosophy and medicine, and a reference library regarding the history of scientific instruments that includes manuscripts, incunabula, prints and printed ephemera, and early photographic items. The museum shows the development of mechanical clocks. Lantern clocks and longcase clocks are exhibited in the Beeson Room, named after the antiquarian horologist Cyril Beeson (1889–1975) who gave his collection to the museum. Early turret clocks are exhibited above the stairs from the basement to the raised ground floor.
There are a wealth of displays arranged into educational exhibitions; for example:'Fancy Names and Fun Toys'. From gigantic televisions to tiny iPods, the moving image today is all around us. Mobile phones capture it, play it and share it digitally, while advertising hoardings have leapt firmly into the realm of science fiction, animating their once-static messages before our eyes. We may take modern video for granted, but the first steps towards true motion pictures began with simple yet marvellous toys of optical illusion. In the days before the earliest forms of cinema were created by the Lumière brothers in 1895, Victorian optical toys provided a charming and instructive array of moving picture demonstrations. They were often simple in design and use but their names suggested fearsome technical complexity: Phenakistiscopes, Praxinoscopes and Choreutoscopes. Yet these elaborately named devices were mass produced for a huge general audience. At the same time, scientists were delving deeper into optical phenomena, including the persistence of images on the retina, from which an illusion of movement can be obtained. Such investigations led to a rich and visually stunning assortment of optical instruments. From the fancily named Thaumatrope to the simple Flip Book, the toys outlined in this exhibition heralded the emergence of cinema, but retained an enduring appeal long after movies hit the silver screen.
Astrolabes and Africa. The astrolabe is an instrument used for astronomical and astrological calculations involving the sun and the stars. Islamic instruments are also often equipped for finding the times for daily prayers and with information for determining the direction of Mecca. The standard instrument is based on two ‘planispheric’ projections — of the celestial sphere and of the user’s horizon. By placing and rotating the celestial projection over that based on the local horizon, the user can perform a range of calculations relating to the apparent motions of the sun and the stars. The time, for example, depends on these apparent motions. Not only does North Africa have a strong tradition of making beautiful and ingenious astrolabes, the origins of the instrument may also be described as African. Although the invention of the astrolabe cannot be precisely located, it was the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, reportedly working in the Egyptian port of Alexandria in the second century BC, who developed the projection on which the instrument is based. Further, it was Claudius Ptolemy, some 300 years later, who provided the first thorough treatise on this projection and who wrote as though he had in mind a physical astrolabe. Two centuries later, again in Alexandria, Theon of Alexandria wrote the first complete work on astrolabes, treating both the underlying mathematics, that is, the theory of stereographic projection, and the construction of the physical instrument. To this he appended a long section on how to use an astrolabe. These pioneering astrolabists were closely linked to Africa: Hipparchus worked in Alexandria, while Ptolemy and Theon were born, lived and died in Egypt.
There is full access for wheelchair users to all parts of the museum. There is lift access to the Basement Galleries (including the Special Exhibition Gallery). The lift can be accessed in the Sheldonian Yard through the gate to the left of the Museum. The museum’s Audio Guide system is currently being reviewed and is unavailable. In the meantime, the audio content can be downloaded free of charge from the Audio Guide web page or a transcript of the audio guide can be borrowed from the front desk on your way into the Museum.
Location : Museum of the History of Science, Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3AZ
Transport : Oxford (National Rail) then 12 minutes. Bus Routes : 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D and, 6 stop close by.
Opening Times : Tuesday to Sunday 12:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free
Tel. : 01865 277280
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History, sometimes known simply as the Oxford University Museum or OUMNH, is a museum displaying many of the University of Oxford's natural history specimens, located on Parks Road in Oxford. It also contains a lecture theatre which is used by the University's chemistry, zoology and mathematics departments. The University's Honour School of Natural Science started in 1850, but the facilities for teaching were scattered around the city of Oxford in the various colleges. The University's collection of anatomical and natural history specimens were similarly spread around the city. Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland, initiated the construction of the museum between 1855 and 1860, to bring together all the aspects of science around a central display area. In 1858, Acland gave a lecture on the museum, setting forth the reason for the building's construction. He thought that the University had been one-sided in the forms of study it offered - chiefly theology, philosophy, the classics and history - and that the opportunity should be offered to learn of the natural world and obtain the "knowledge of the great material design of which the Supreme Master-Worker has made us a constituent part". This idea, of Nature as the Second Book of God, was common in the 19th century. The construction of the building was accomplished through money earned from the sale of Bibles. Several departments moved within the building — astronomy, geometry, experimental physics, mineralogy, chemistry, geology, zoology, anatomy, physiology and medicine. As the departments grew in size over the years, they moved to new locations along South Parks Road, which remains the home of the University's science departments.
The last department to leave the building was the entomology department, which moved into the zoology building in 1978. However, there is still a working entomology laboratory on the first floor of the museum building. Between 1885 and 1886 a new building to the east of the museum was constructed to house the ethnological collections of General Augustus Pitt Rivers; the Pitt Rivers Museum. In 19th-century thinking, it was very important to separate objects made by the hand of God (natural history) from objects made by the hand of man (anthropology). The largest portion of the museum's collections consist of the natural history specimens from the Ashmolean Museum, including the specimens collected by John Tradescant the elder and his son of the same name, William Burchell and geologist William Buckland. The Christ Church Museum donated its osteological and physiological specimens, many of which were collected by Acland.
A significant debate in the history of evolutionary biology took place in the museum in 1860 at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Representatives of the Church and science debated the subject of evolution, and the event is often viewed as symbolising the defeat of a literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative. However, there are few eye-witness accounts of the debate, and most accounts of the debate were written by scientists. Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, are generally cast as the main protagonists in the debate. Huxley was a keen scientist and a staunch supporter of Darwin's theories. Wilberforce had supported the construction of the museum as the centre for the science departments, for the study of the wonders of God's creations. On the Wednesday of the meeting, 27 June 1860, botanist Charles Daubeny presented a paper on plant sexuality, which made reference to Darwin's theory of natural selection. Richard Owen, a zoologist who believed that evolution was governed by divine influence, criticised the theory pointing out that the brain of the gorilla was more different from that of man than that of other primates. Huxley stated that he would respond to this comment in print, and declined to continue the debate. However, rumours began to spread that the Bishop of Oxford would be attending the conference on the following Saturday. Initially, Huxley was planning to avoid the bishop's speech. However, evolutionist Robert Chambers convinced him to stay.
Wilberforce's speech on 30 June 1860 was good-humoured and witty, but was an unfair attack on Darwinism, ending in the now infamous question to Huxley of whether "it was through his grandfather or grandmother that he claimed descent from a monkey." Some commentators suggested that this question was written by Owen, and others suggested that the bishop was taught by Owen. (Owen and Wilberforce had known each other since childhood.) Wilberforce is purported to have turned to his neighbour, chemist Professor Brodie and exclaimed, "The Lord has delivered him into mine hands." When Huxley spoke, he responded that he had heard nothing from Wilberforce to prejudice Darwin's arguments, which still provided the best explanation of the origin of species yet advanced. He ended with the equally famous response to Wilberforce's question, that he had "no need to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather, but that he would be ashamed of having for an ancestor a man of restless and versatile interest who distracts the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digression and skilled appeals to religious prejudice." However it seems unlikely that the debate was as spectacular as traditionally suggested – contemporary accounts by journalists do not make mention of the words that have become such notable quotations. Additionally, contemporary accounts suggest that it was not Huxley, but Sir Joseph Hooker who most vocally defended Darwinism at the meeting. While all the accounts of the event suggest that the supporters of Darwinism were the most persuasive, it seems likely that the exact nature of the debate was made more sensational in the reports of Huxley's supporters to encourage further support for Darwin's theories
The museum collections are divided into three sections: Earth Collections covering the Palaeontological collections and the mineral and rock collections, Life Collections which include zoological and entomological collections, and the Archive Collections. As well as central exhibits featuring the dodo and dinosaurs, there are sets of displays with contemporary designs but within restored Victorian cabinets, on a variety of themes: Evolution, Primates, the History of Life, Vertebrates, Invertebrates and Rocks & Minerals. There are also a number of popular touchable items, which include Mandy the Shetland Pony, a stuffed leopard and other taxidermy. Additionally there is a meteorite and large fossils and minerals. Visitors can also see large dinosaur reconstructions and a procession of mammal skeletons. A famous group of ichnites was found in a limestone quarry at Ardley, 20 km northeast of Oxford, in 1997. They were thought to have been made by Megalosaurus and possibly Cetiosaurus. There are replicas of some of these footprints, set across the front lawn of the museum. The Hope Entomological Collections, numbering over 5 million specimens are held by the Museum. The Hope Department was founded by Frederick William Hope and the first appointed curator of the collections was John Obadiah Westwood. Many important insect and arachnid specimens from various collectors and collections make up the museums holdings including (but not limited to) those of Octavius Pickard-Cambridge, George Henry Verrall, Pierre François Marie Auguste Dejean, Pierre André Latreille, Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Darwin, Jacques Marie Frangile Bigot, and Pierre Justin Marie Macquart among others.
The first public demonstration of wireless telegraphy took place in the lecture theatre of the museum on 14 August 1894, carried out by Professor Oliver Lodge. A radio signal was sent from the neighbouring Clarendon Laboratory building, and received by apparatus in the lecture theatre. For an audio-description introducing the museum, please listen here. The new Museum café is situated on the upper gallery over-looking the dinosaurs. There are child-friendly options available and families are always welcome. Please note that the café will be closed 14th, 15th and 16th September 2016. There is no public parking at the Museum, although disabled facilities are available to registered users. There is a lift to the upper gallery for wheelchair access. Registered guide dogs are allowed in the museum. The museum has developed a set of resources for families with children on the autistic spectrum but potentially of use to other visitors with young children or additional needs.
Location : Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW
Transport : Oxford (National Rail) then bus or 20 minutes. Bus Routes : X32 stops close by.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free
Tel. : 01865 272950