A renowned place of innovation and yet home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford is a city where the new and the ancient collide. Nowhere is this more obviously embodied than in the selection of mind-boggling museums in Oxford. If you’re looking for an option for a rainy day in Oxford, here’s our must-visit list.
1. The Ashmolean
Opened in 1683, this museum of art and archeology attracts visitors from across the globe, and can be found in all of its classical splendour on bustling Beaumont Street. Bursting at the seams with incredible artefacts and paintings, one of this free museum’s most exciting permanent features is a large collection of Egyptian treasures located on the ground floor. Previous major exhibitions have included work from artists as influential as Cezanne, Andy Warhol, William Blake, and Raphael.
The major temporary exhibition running until January 2020 is ‘Last Supper of Pompeii,’ an extraordinary insight into the culinary habits of those whose lives were captured in ash during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, from a piece of carbonised bread to ornate frescos.
2. The Pitt Rivers Museum
From shrunken heads to faux silk Georgian shoes, and Siberian underwear fashioned from reindeer wool to Easter Island’s maoi sculptures: the Pitt Rivers Museum is home to over half a million objects, from the mundane to the out-of-this-world. This collection really is a feast for the eyes and boasts of the ethnographic and the archeological, of photographs and manuscripts from every continent, and the Balfour Library, which contains over 20,000 books.
Entry is free and one of the exhibitions running currently commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. ‘Traces of the Past‘ runs until 26th January 2020.
3. Modern Art Oxford
Certainly a change of tone and scale from the Pitt Rivers and the Ashmolean, Modern Art Oxford is tucked neatly away down Pembroke Street. It is a cool, cosy and contemplative space, bringing a modern edge to the selection of museums in Oxford. With a lovely cafe, the perfect place to mull over the exhibitions, the gallery has housed work from notable names such as Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovich and Tracey Emin.
Contemporary pioneer in printmaking and sculpture, Kiki Smith’s retrospective ‘I am a Wanderer‘ will be showcased there until the new year in 2020, and tackles all things bodily and mythological.
4. Oxford University Press Museum
The Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world, and was founded over 400 years ago. A department of the University of Oxford and situated in Jericho opposite Somerville College, the Press has opened its doors to visitors. If you choose to visit, you will be welcomed into a museum that traces their historical involvement with printing and publishing from the 15th century to the present day.
Bookings must be made in advance but admission is free and the visit is made entirely worth it by the Press’ beautiful exterior and the fascinating exhibition. Don’t miss this remarkable museum!
5. Bate Collection
If you fancy something a little off the beaten track, the Bate Collection is one of Oxford’s hidden gems. Owned by the University’s Faculty of Music, it is Britain’s most comprehensive collection of European woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. Whilst on paper this might sound a little old-fashioned, in reality, there are more than a thousand instruments in the collection, most of them used in the Western classical tradition, and with some of them dating back to the Middle Ages. For something fascinating and new, or just to escape the crowds at other museums in Oxford, head to St Aldate’s to browse this collection for free.
6. Christ Church Picture Gallery
The breathtaking architecture of Christ Church College should already feature on the to-do list of anyone visiting Oxford, but its Picture Gallery is really a jewel in its crown. Unique amongst the Oxbridge colleges, Christ Church is home to a significant collection of paintings and drawings by the Old Masters, including a selection from Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Rubens. Showcasing Italian art from the 14th to the 18th century, it forms one of the most important private collections in the country let alone among Oxford’s museums. It can be accessed at the rate of £4 for adults, and £2 for concessions.
Spoilt for choice, visitors of Oxford can feast on the artistic, musical, literary and archeological delights that the city has to offer by paying a visit to one of its extraordinary museums.
Students of the Oxford Scholastica Academy will have the chance to experience some of these illuminating exhibitions, and if they choose to do so, will be treated to hundreds of years of creation, collection and curation.
A summer with all of Oxford's museums at your fingertips...
Oxford Scholastica’s summer courses give you the opportunity to live and study in one of the world’s most enriching cities.