This is simply the quirkiest museum you’ll ever visit full of endless cabinets of interesting archaeological and anthropological curiosities.
Experience the cultural history of the world by visiting the Ashmolean Museum, a home to an outstanding collection of art and archaeology. It’s not a surprise this the world’s oldest university museum is one of the most popular cultural destinations in the whole of Europe as within the museum’s walls visitors are able to travel the world through eight thousand years of time, from the Ancient World to the present day.
The museum’s 39 galleries show how civilisations developed as part of a connected world culture where visitors can admire breathtaking objects such as Ashmolean Museum’s most famous painting, The Hunt in the Forest by Paolo Uccello; the Anglo-Saxon Alfred Jewel, The Piazza del Popolo by Giovanni Paolo Panini; and A View of Dolo on the Brenta Canal by Giovanni Antonio Canaletto.
Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean has its origins in a ‘cabinet of curiosities’, consisting of collection of rarities from the globe collected by the gardener father and son John Tradescant the Elder and Younger. What started as a single room of paintings and curiosities, grew into a very impressive collection.
The museum takes its name from Elias Ashmole, English antiquary who studied at the University of Oxford whilst posted to the military there, who donated the Tradescant collection to the University in 1677. He did so in belief that knowledge could be gained through the study of objects, or ‘the inspection of particulars’. He was especially interested in the ways in which knowledge could be used to improve society. The collection included antique coins, books, engravings, geological and zoological specimens which he had collected himself or acquired from collectors John Tradescant the Elder and Younger.
At the time of its establishment in 1683, the Ashmolean was more than just a museum. It consisted of a repository, school of natural history, and chemical laboratory, all of which were intended to work together to advance the New Philosophy. Promoted by thinkers such as Francis Bacon, the New Philosophy involved observing nature, collecting data, and testing hypotheses through experiments. In many ways, the Ashmolean was the realization of Bacon’s vision of ‘Salomon’s House’, it become an institution for advancing natural knowledge and applying it for the benefit of mankind.
The Ashmolean has occupied buildings at two locations in Oxford, the first on Broad Street and the second on Beaumont Street. The Old Ashmolean Building on Broad Street, is now occupied by the Museum of the History of Science but in the seventeenth century it became home to the University’s first official site for experimental science. The design of the building is sometimes attributed to Sir Christopher Wren or Thomas Wood.
The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest museum in the UK and one of the oldest in the world! What makes is special is the incredibly rich collections from around the globe, ranging from Egyptian mummies and classical sculpture to the Pre-Raphaelites and modern art.
The present Ashmolean was created in 1908 by combining two ancient Oxford institutions: the University Art Collection and the original Ashmolean Museum. The Museum’s building was designed in the Neoclassical style by Charles Robert Cockerell that fuses ancient Roman, Greek and English baroque design. The collection grew so large that new buildings had to be erected between 1841 and 1845.
In 2009, the museum’s interior was entirely redesigned in a £61 million project that not only doubled the gallery space but fundamentally rethought the way in which the collections were displayed.
Want to see more? Visit the full gallery and get to know The Ashmolean Museum better.
The 9th-century Alfred Jewel is probably the single most famous archeological object in England. It was discovered in 1693, and is now one of the most popular exhibits at the Ashmolean Museum.
Ashmolean is famous for having one of the best collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, majolica pottery, and English silver. The department also has an extensive collection of antiquities from Ancient Egypt and the Sudan.
Tuesday to Sunday: 10am-5pm.
Closed on Mondays.
Admission is Free.
Enjoy the spectacular setting of Oxford’s rooftop restaurant The Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant.
Open: Tuesday, Wednesday & Sunday 10am-4.30pm, Thursday, Friday & Saturday 10am-10pm.
There is disabled access throughout the Museum, with ramps into the building. Free touch and description tours for visitors with visual impairments are also available.