Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Of course, no visit to any city would be complete for me without at least one visit to a museum. In Oxford, I managed to fit in two - plus the Botanic Garden - in amongst our wandering and cake eating. The Oxford University Museum of Natural History was our first stop. Fascinatingly, the museum building was funded through the sale of bibles: the Oxford University Press was a significant producer of these from its founding. It's certainly an amazing piece of architecture, built in 1861 with influence from the writings of John Ruskin. It's well known for the beautiful glass roof and elaborate cast iron supports; the decoration is wonderful, though actually still remaining somewhat unfinished as funding ran out (you can actually see the differences in the window arch decoration in the photograph above). I particularly loved that each of the small columns of the cloisters inside are made from a different British stone, carefully labelled. The museum holds the natural history collections of the University, including the Oxford dodo, Mandy the taxidermy Shetland pony and of course plenty of fossils. Given that I work in museums in engagement, I'm also really pleased to see the museum has a youth forum for people aged 14-19!

I was sadly a little too early to visit their new exhibition, Microsculpture, which features large scale photographic portraits of insects by Levon Bliss. However, I did get to see Kurt Jackson's Bees exhibition, which was lovely and thought provoking regarding the current situation of bees int the UK. Both are part of a series of events at the museum called 'Visions of Nature', which explores the natural world through the lens of different visual artists. I really love this focus: too often we see art and science as separate subjects, rather than the amazingly interconnected disciplines that they are; each informs the other and have done for centuries.

I really love the 'day in the life at the Museum of Natural History' below - it's really nice to see what goes on behind the scenes in other museums, especially ones outside London which get a bit less press. 


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