Ashmolean Museum

Ashmolean Museum

Location map
Oxford (central)
mark=Blue pog.svg
caption=The present museum building within central Oxford

The Ashmolean Museum (in full the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology) on Beaumont Street, Oxford, England, is the world's first university museum. Its first building is sometimes attributed to Sir Christopher Wren, though there is no good evidence for this claim, and was built in 1678–1683 to house the collection or cabinet of curiosities Elias Ashmole gave Oxford University in 1677.

Collection history

The works include that of Elias Ashmole, which he had collected himself as well as those he had acquired from the gardeners, travellers and collectors John Tradescant the elder and his son of the same name. 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 it was so moth-eaten it was destroyed, except for its head and one claw. The museum opened on 6 June 1683, with naturalist Robert Plot as the first keeper.

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" staff. Since 1935, 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 1845. 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. The main museum contains the original collections of Elias Ashmole and John Tradescant (father and son), as well as huge collections of archaeology 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.


The interior of the Ashmolean has been extensively modernised in recent years and now includes a restaurant and large gift shop. The Sackler Library, incorporating the older library collections of the Ashmolean, opened in 2001 and has allowed an expansion of the book collection, which concentrates on classical civilization, archaeology and art history.

Between 2006 and 2009, the museum is in a process of extensive rebuilding and expansion to the designs of architect Rick Mather, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. As a consequence some of the galleries have been closed, though most of the highlights are still on show. The rebuilding will result in five floors instead of three, with a doubling of the display space as well as new conservation studios and an education centre. As of 2007 most of the exterior cleaning of the building to remove soot has been completed, and the construction work in the building is well under way.


Highlights of the collection include:

* The Alfred Jewel
* Drawings by Michaelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci
* Watercolours and paintings by Turner
* Paintings by Paolo Uccello, Piero di Cosimo, John Constable, Claude Lorraine, and Pablo Picasso
* Arab ceremonial dress owned by Lawrence of Arabia
* A death mask of Oliver Cromwell
* The collection of Posie rings that supposedly inspired the One Ring in J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"
* The Parian Marble, the earliest extant example of a Greek chronological table
* The ceremonial cloak of Chief Powhatan
* The lantern Gunpowder Plot conspiracist Guy Fawkes carried in 1605
* The Messiah Stradivarius, a violin made by Antonio Stradivari
* The Minoan collection of Arthur Evans, the biggest outside Crete

The Alfred Jewel was the inspiration for the "The Wolvercote Tongue", in which the museum's interior was used as a set. [cite web| title= Itinerary for Inspector Morse Tour| url=| work= Oxford, England| publisher= TourInADay| quote= The Ashmolean Museum is home to The Alfred Jewel that inspired the Inspector Morse episode, The Wolvercote Toungue. This episode ... used the inside of the Ashmolean as a set.| accessdate= 2008-07-04]

On 31 December 1999 (New Year's Eve), thieves used scaffolding on an adjoining building to climb onto the roof of the Ashmolean to break through a skylight, stealing a painting by Cézanne. As the thieves ignored other works in the same room and it has not been offered for sale, it is speculated that this was a case of an artwork stolen to order. [cite news| title= Art World Nightmare: Made-to-Order Theft; Stolen Works Like Oxford's Cezanne Can Vanish for Decades| url=| last= Lyall| first= Sarah| authorlink= Sarah Lyall | work= Arts| publisher= The New York Times| quote= ... the thief carried with him exactly what he had come for, a $4.8 million Cezanne oil on canvas, 'Auvers-sur-Oise,' which was painted between 1879 and 1882 ...| date= 2000-02-03| accessdate= 2008-07-04]

Directors and Keepers

* Christopher Brown 1998-
* Christopher White -1997
* Ian Robertson 1972-
* Robert Hamilton 1962-1972
* K T Parker 1945-1962
* Edward Thurlow Leeds 1928-1945
* David George Hogarth 1909-1927
* Sir Arthur Evans 1884-1908
* John Henry Parker 1869-
* Philip Duncan 1829-
* John Shute Duncan 1823-1829
* William Huddersford 1755-1772
* George Huddersford 1732-1755
* John Whiteside 1714-1729
* David Parry 1709-1714
* Edward Lhuyd 1691-1709
* Robert Plot 1683-1691


Ian Robetson was not Keeper of the Ashmolean: R.W.Hamilton was the last Keeper: he was succeeded by the first Director, D. T. Piper (later Sir David Piper) in 1973; he retired in 1985 and was succeeded by Christopher White

External links

* [ Ashmolean Museum website]
* [ Sackler Library]
* [ The Griffith Institute]
* [ Virtual Tour of the Ashmolean Museum, photography from 2003]
* [ Powhatan's Mantle — pictures, description & history]

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  • Ashmolean Museum — Der klassizistische Haupteingang des Ashmolean Museum Das gegenwärtige Ashmolean Museum (Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology) ist ein 1845 in Oxford als University Gallery erbautes Museum. Seit 1894 ist darin die Ashmolean Sammlung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ashmolean Museum — 51° 45′ 19″ N 1° 15′ 36″ W / 51.7554, 1.26 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ashmolean Museum — Ash|mo|le|an Mu|se|um the Ashmolean Museum also the Ashmolean a famous ↑museum of ancient history and ↑archaeology in Oxford, England, which also contains important collections of paintings, jewellery, historical documents etc …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Ashmolean Museum — (infml the Ashmolean) a museum in Oxford, England. It is the oldest public museum in Britain, and was opened by Elias Ashmole in 1683. It has important collections of paintings and archaeological objects such as ancient Greek sculptures and coins …   Universalium

  • Ashmolean Museum — /ˌæʃmoʊliən mjuˈziəm/ (say .ashmohleeuhn myooh zeeuhm) noun a museum at Oxford University, England, with noted art and archaeological collections. {named after Elias Ashmole, 1617–92, English antiquary who founded it} …   Australian-English dictionary

  • Ashmolean Museum —  Oxford, England …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Ashmolean Museum — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology — ▪ museum, Oxford, England, United Kingdom       one of the four museums of the University of Oxford and the oldest public museum of art, archaeology, and natural history in Great Britain. It was established to house collections donated to the… …   Universalium

  • (the) Ashmolean Museum — the Ashmolean Museum [the Ashmolean Museum] (infml the Ashmolean) a museum in ↑Oxford, England. It is the oldest public museum in Britain, and was opened by Elias Ashmole in …   Useful english dictionary

  • Ashmolean — ➡ Ashmolean Museum * * * …   Universalium

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