Oxford University Museums receive £1.45m per year funding from Arts Council England

1 July 2014

Oxford University Museums have been awarded £1.45 million per year by Arts Council England to support a wide range of exciting activities and programmes over the next three years.

Comprising the Ashmolean Museum, the Museum of the History of Science, the Museum of Natural History, and the Pitt Rivers Museum, the group is one of 21 Major Partner Museums across England to be granted funding from 2015 onwards under the Arts Council’s Renaissance programme. Offering free admission, the four museums together receive around 2 million visitors each year.

Since it launched in April 2012, Renaissance has provided £22.6 million to groups of Major Partner Museums across the regions. At the Oxford University Museums the funding enables a rich programme of activities for the public, including educational visits for schools, activities for families and lifelong learners, and community outreach programmes. Last year the museums provided education sessions to almost 90,000 school students and engaged 40,000 children and 85,000 adults, both inside the museums and out in the community.

Arts Council funding also supports important behind-the-scenes activity that underpins the museums’ public work, including conservation, collections care, loans and technical services. In addition, it has enabled the development of digital resources that make the collections available to students, scholars and the public across the world.

Professor Paul Smith, Director of the Museum of Natural History at the University of Oxford, said: ’Over the years, Renaissance funding has transformed the way that the University museums interact with the public. The new funding will enable us to continue innovating and to provide exciting and novel programmes for visitors.’

As part of the Major Partner Museum portfolio, Oxford University Museums also provide leadership within the museum sector itself. Over the past three years the consortium has developed the Oxford ASPIRE programme, which runs training and knowledge-sharing events for museum professionals on topics including fundraising and philanthropy, commercial enterprise, digital development, and audience engagement. From March 2015, ASPIRE will pilot Oxford Cultural Leaders, a new international leadership programme for the sector.

Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Services and University Collections at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Arts Council England’s major grant will help ensure both that the galleries and the expertise of their curatorial staff are even better used by schools, and local, national and international visitors and colleagues, and that Oxford University Museums continue to play a significant leadership role in the sector’.

For more information contact: Jessica Suess Oxford APIRE Officer Oxford University Museums [email protected] | 01865 613783 | 07768150465

Notes to Editors:

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is Britain’s first public museum and one of the oldest in the world. The museum’s theme of ‘crossing cultures, crossing time’ leads visitors from East to West and from the earliest days of human settlement right up to the twenty-first century. Highlights include the best collection of Pre-Dynastic Egyptian material in Europe, the only great collection of Minoan antiquities outside Greece, the most important group of Raphael drawings in the world, and outstanding displays of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Islamic art. The museum reopened in 2009 following a £61m redevelopment which doubled the museum’s display space, creating 39 new galleries across 5 floors, and an extensive new temporary exhibition space for world-class exhibitions such as Cezanne and the Modern and Discovering Tutankhamun. www.ashmolean.org

Museum of the History of Science
The Museum of the History of Science houses an unrivalled collection of early scientific instruments in the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building. 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. The Islamic world is particularly strongly represented, from the 9th to the 19th century. Other highlights include the Marconi collection, the Einstein blackboard, some of the earliest experimental photographs and collections telling the story of the development of penicillin. As well as its permanent displays, an ambitious series of temporary exhibitions has established an international reputation for both scholarship and the experimental and idiosyncratic: the world’s first museum exhibition of Steampunk attracted global lenders and visitors. For those unable to visit Oxford, online versions of these exhibitions are available. The museum has a core commitment to digital access: its collections database has been fully available online since 1997. www.mhs.ox.ac.uk

Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History houses over 7 million internationally important mineralogical, palaeontological, zoological and archival collections. These include 35,000 zoological and palaeontological type specimens, the earliest surviving British natural history specimens, the only surviving dodo soft tissues, and the first scientifically-described remains of dinosaurs. Housed in a Grade I listed Victorian neo-gothic building, the museum reopened in February 2014 after a 14-month, £2m roof restoration project which saw more than 8,500 glass tiles individually removed, cleaned and resealed. The result is a revitalised, bright and airy museum space. The museum building was designed with the Pre-Raphaelite precept of ‘truth to nature’, and since its opening in 1860 has been an intersection for interdisciplinary learning. Famously, the first public event the museum hosted upon opening was the Great Debate on evolution between Bishop Wilberforce and T. H. Huxley following the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. www.oum.ox.ac.uk

Pitt Rivers Museum
The Pitt Rivers Museum cares for one of the world’s great collections of anthropology and world archaeology.  Coming from all corners of the globe , and all periods in human history, the collection includes both great cultural treasures but also tens of thousands of everyday objects which illustrate the diversity of cultural solutions to the same basic problems that we all face as humans beings.  This aspect is highlighted by the Museum’s unique displays, which group artefacts primarily by type or function, rather than the particular culture or region from which the artefacts come.  The artefact collection is complemented by an equally large and important collection of fieldwork and other photographs, along with audio recordings and manuscripts. The Museum is currently delivering VERVE, a £1.6m project, funded by the Heritage Lottery and a number of other generous supporters.  The five year project will conserve some 2,000 artefacts and redisplay them in re-lighted case runs across all three of the Museum’s floors, while still preserving the Museum’s distinctive period atmosphere.  Running alongside VERVE’s conservation and re-display components is a wide-ranging programme of free public activities illuminating the ways in which human creativity has driven developments in design and technologies. www.prm.ox.ac.uk

Arts Council Investment
Arts Council England funds museums in a number of ways and with differing timescales. Our Major Partner Museums lead wide programmes of work for schools, families and lifelong learning. They develop excellent care and conservation; demonstrate innovative and engaging interpretations and their Designated collections; they focus on becoming sustainable organisations through increasing earned income; and they improve staff development through workforce training programmes. Funding to Major partner museums will increase to £22.6 million per year in 2015/16. This includes an additional £1.1 million, which has been added to the overall museums budget to encourage a greater geographical spread. Further details: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/our-investment-2015-18/major-partner-museums-15-18/