International Museum Day: 18 May 2022

Why not plan a visit to the University's museums to mark this year's International Museum Day and enjoy some of Oxford’s treasures?

Entry to all four museums and the Weston Library (part of the Bodleian Libraries) is free, but visitors can provide a donation via the designated boxes on entry.  

The Ashmolean Museum 

Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is the world's first university museum and Britain's first public museum.

Its galleries embody the theme ‘crossing cultures, crossing time’, leading visitors from east to west and from the earliest days of human settlement to modern times. Among the Ashmolean’s treasures are its collections of ancient Egyptian and Minoan material, Anglo-Saxon objects and modern Chinese art.  

Highlight object: Guy Fawkes’ Lantern 

Presented to the University of Oxford by Robert Heywood, 1641.

Guy Fawke's lantern from the Ashomolean museum

Guy Fawkes is said to have been carrying this iron and horn lantern when he was arrested in the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament on the night of 4–5 November 1605.  

The History of Science Museum  

The History of Science Museum, which opened in 1925, holds a leading collection of scientific instruments from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.

Its collections of astrolabes and sundials are the largest in the world and include instruments once owned by Queen Elizabeth I, Cardinal Wolsey and Nostradamus. 

  • Explore a selection of the museum’s top objects, chosen by the Museum Director.
  • Find out more about the Making Waves: Marconi’s Radio Revolution display. 

Highlight object: Blackboard used by Albert Einstein 

 Einstein's blackboard showing equations

Albert Einstein (1879–1955) was already internationally celebrated for his special and general theories of relativity when he was invited to Oxford in 1931. This blackboard was preserved from Einstein’s second lecture, which took place on 16 May 1931, and its equations connect the age, density and size of the universe. 

The Museum of Natural History  

The Museum of Natural History was established in 1860 and holds internationally significant geological and zoological specimen collections.

This includes specimens brought back from the Galápagos Islands by Charles Darwin, the only surviving soft tissues from a dodo, the Tsetse fly collected by David Livingstone and the first scientifically described dinosaur fossils. The building itself is a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture and, in the summer, its tower is home to a much-loved and studied swift population

Highlight object: The Oxford Dodo 

Remains of the dodo bird including the head and a foot

This specimen was first listed in 1656 in a catalogue of the Tradescant collection. The Oxford dodo is the most famous specimen held by the museum. They are the only surviving remains of dodo soft tissue to exist anywhere in the world. The dodo was a flightless bird, first discovered by Europeans in the late 16th century on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The dodo became extinct less than 80 years later. 

The Pitt Rivers Museum  

Housing one of the world’s greatest archaeological and ethnographic collections, the Pitt Rivers Museum features objects from across all continents and ages.

The museum was founded in 1884 and its collections range from the iconic Haida crest pole and a Tahitian Mourner costume acquired on Captain Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific, to a modern USB stick dug up in North London and a Thames Valley Police riot shield.  The museum is accessed via the adjoining Museum of Natural History. 

Highlight object: Moai figure, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) 

Collected by William Scoresby Routledge and Katherine Routledge in 1914.

Moai sculpture showing a carved head - Pitt Rivers Museum

Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is well known for its moai sculptures. This is a smaller version called a 'moai maea', standing half a metre in height. It was found in a cave in 1914, and was probably used as a boundary stone. 

Bodleian Libraries 

The Bodleian Libraries form the largest university library system in the UK.

The Bodleian Libraries’ collections are considered to be among the greatest in the world, including: a Gutenberg Bible, the earliest surviving book written wholly in English and a quarter of the world’s original copies of the Magna Carta. 

  • Two of its venues, the Old Bodleian Library and the Weston Library, are open to the public every day. Through daily guided tours, visitors can step inside the historic rooms of the Old Bodleian Library, including the 15th-century Divinity School, medieval Duke Humfrey's Library and the iconic Radcliffe Camera.
  • Located over the road, the Weston Library is a great place to meet for coffee and has just launched Tutankhamun: excavating the archive, a free exhibition exploring the story of the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb through the eyes of the archaeologists on the ground. 

Highlight object: Drake’s chair 

Ornate chair made of timber from Drake's Golden Hind ship

Given to the Bodleian Library in 1662 by John Davis of Camberwell, Keeper of the naval stores at Deptford Dockyard. 

Drake’s Chair was constructed from the timbers of the Golden Hind, Sir Francis Drake’s ship. The ship sailed around the world in the second global circumnavigation in history, and the first to be completed by a single captain. 


Visit the websites below to find out about upcoming exhibitions and events for all the GLAM sites