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Country: UKAddress: Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH
Website: www.ashmolean.org Uploaded artworks: 120 Uploaded artist: 84
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.
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 2008, 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.
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