International Museum Day 2023

International Museum Day took place on 18 May. To mark the occasion, the Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) team highlight some of Oxford’s cultural sites that staff can enjoy for free, or at a discount. 
There are four museums across GLAM, all with an incredible range of free exhibitions and displays.

Ashmolean Museum 

Bull statue

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.

University staff can enjoy discounted tickets for the major exhibition Labyrinth: Knossos, Myth and Reality (open until 30 July) or you can check out the free Spotlight Trail, which guides you through 12 of the museum’s most interesting items.

History of Science Museum

A museum display showing costumes, the ceiling coloured with blues and pinks

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. 

You can explore a selection of the museum’s top objects, chosen by the Museum Director, or journey through the Museum with your daemon guide to discover props and costumes from the BBC’s His Dark Materials show in the Lyra’s Worlds display for free. 

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.

You can discover the fascinating history of planet Earth and the evolution of life in twenty new displays or explore the interconnection of oceans, land and air in the free exhibition, Connected Planet

Pitt Rivers Museum

Man laying in a dimly lit room with a ray of sunshine over his face

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.

You can view the museum’s free exhibition, UNMASKED – Spirit in the City where art and anthropology come together to unmask the violence and vulnerability of life in Nigeria’s oil capital, Port Harcourt.

Bodleian Libraries

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

Sepia photograph of a wheat-like plant

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 enjoy Bright Sparks: Photography & the Talbot Archive, a free exhibition celebrating William Henry Fox Talbot’s pioneering photography through his archive and influence on contemporary artists (open until 18th June). 

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.  
Find out about upcoming exhibitions and events for all the GLAM sites, on the websites below: