The Ashmolean Museum - Britain's oldest museum
The Old Ashmolean
- Broad Street,
Oxford, OX1 3AZ
The Ashmolean Museum is the world's first university museum.
Its first building (the Old Ashmolean) was built in 1678–1683 to house the cabinet of curiosities of Elias Ashmole - he gave them to Oxford University in 1677. It is a Grade I listed building built in Headington stone by the Oxford University in, and patched with Clipsham stone in 1960.
It was the first museum in the world to open its doors to the public and is the world's oldest surviving purpose-built museum building. This museum was probably designed by the Oxford master-mason Thomas Wood, and was opened in 1683 by James, Duke of York (later King James II) whose cipher and crown can be seen on the north front elevation. It cost the then massive sum of £4,500.
The collection of curiosities 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 Old Ashmolean museum is now the home of the Museum of the History of Science, and has an unrivalled collection of scientific instruments from medieval times to the 17th century. Its collection of 18th and 19th-century instruments is also substantial.
The new Ashmolean
- Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2PH
The 'new' Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology dates from 1845.
In 1908 the present Ashmolean museum format was created by combining two ancient Oxford institutions: the University Art Collection and the original Ashmolean Museum. The older partner in this merger, the University Art Collection, was based for many years in what is now the Upper Reading Room in the Bodleian Library.
The building 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. The main museum contains huge collections of archaeological specimens and fine art.
The museum 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.
The objects of curiosity include Guy Fawkes’ lantern and a sword said to have been given by the pope to King Henry VIII.
The collection was enhanced by the addition of its prize possession, the Alfred Jewel (discovered in 1693 at North Petherton in the English county of Somerset), in 1718.This Saxon relic is a gold-encrusted, enameled ornament intended to grace the end of a staff, or scepter. The association with King Alfred the Great is uncertain, though the Latin inscription (which translates as "Alfred had me made") and the richness of the jewel makes it likely that only someone as powerful as Alfred could have been responsible for its creation.
The new Ashmolean Museum
- Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH
Open: Tues – Sunday 10am – 5pm, Bank Holiday Monday 10am – 6pm
The Museum is closed 24 – 26 December, 2012. Tel: +44 (0)1865 278002
The Ashmolean at Broadway
For the first time in the Oxford's museum history the Ashmolean is expanding to the small picturesque and historic Cotswold village of Broadway. Ashmolean : Broadway is due to open on 25 May 2013 at 17th Century Tudor House, High Street, Broadway, Worcestershire.
Furniture, objects, paintings and textiles from the Ashmolean’s reserve collections, as well as works from the private collection of the Keil family, will go on display in six rooms of the house. There will also be a gallery space dedicated to rotating exhibitions of works by local artists.
The museum will recreate the original interior, furnishings and styles of the house, including from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
Admission charges will apply
Open: Tues – Sun 10am – 5pm
The Shop is also open on Mondays until the 17 December between 10am and 4pm
The Ashmolean's eating and shopping area on the lower ground floor is a lovely place to take a break. Cakes and pastries are freshly baked every day; there are warming soups and a range of sandwiches for lunch. Traditional cream tea is served from 3pm.
Open: Tues – Sun 10am – 5pm
Ashmolean Dining Room
Enjoy the spectacular setting of Oxford’s rooftop restaurant The Ashmolean Dining Room. Be inspired by a menu of authentic European dishes, accompanied by a wine list of beautiful wines from around the world. The Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch and traditional afternoon tea.
Evenings on the ‘Rooftop’
Enjoy a fixed price menu offer in the beautiful surroundings of The Ashmolean Dining Room on Friday and Saturday evenings. Ideal for a pre-Theatre place to eat. The Ashmolean Dining Room is open every evening Tuesday to Saturday for Christmas meals from December 10th to December 23rd. Booking is essential
Open: Tues – Thur, Sun 10am – 5pm;
Fri, Sat 10am - 10pm; T: 01865 553 823