Ashmolean Museum

The Ashmolean Museum

The Ashmolean Museum is one of the first school trips I remember going on as a child in primary school.  I remember being mesmerised by all it’s treasures and 20 years on that hasn’t changed!

The Ashmolean Museum is the University Of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology.   It was first founded in 1683 and has the most incredible collections of just about everything you can imagine!  From Egyptian mummies to artwork, musical instruments and artifacts spanning all cultures and time frames.

ashmolean museum entrance

Last week we decided to spend the day in Oxford for my 30th birthday and the Ashmolean Museum was first on our list.  We parked in the Westgate Shopping Centre multistory car park and walked the 10 minutes or so from there to the Ashmolean Museum.  It was super easy to find as there are maps around the city centre showing you where you are and where all the main attractions are.

Despite it being a wet day during the Easter holidays the museum was busy but not overcrowded and we were able to look at the displays with ease.  We headed first to the Ancient Egyptian area as this is mine and Lilian’s favourite period of history.  I have always been fascinated by Egyptian mummies, pyramids, gods, their beliefs, etc.  This area of the museum most certainly did not disappoint.  The highlight for us was the opened sarcophagus layers hanging above one another in a huge glass case.  It’s a fantastic way of displaying the different layers.  The Egyptians certainly knew how to care for the dead.

Another area of history I always enjoyed learning about was the Ancient Greeks.  There are some beautiful Greek vases on display in this area of the museum.  The Romans has always interested Lilian and these displays are also housed on the ground floor of the museum.  It was definitely our favourite floor and so we returned to it several times!

kids doing trail sheet in the ashmolean museum

At the information desk on the ground floor of the Ashmolean Museum you can pick up a number of activity trails to have a go at.  We picked up 3 different ones.  Cody particularly enjoyed the dog trail.  You had to find various dog statues or pictures around the museum and answer questions about them.  This kept the kids occupied and got them really looking at what was in the display cases.  They even learned a few things too!

cody stood next to egyptian mummy

The first floor of the Ashmolean Museum houses its Middle East collection.  There are beautiful sculptures of Hindu and Budhist importance.  Many of these were originally found in temples or household shrines.  They were used as objects of devotion or meditation.  This floor also houses the ‘Mediterranean World’ gallery.  This was particularly popular with the kids as its centre piece is a huge map in the middle of the room.  The map identifies important areas in Mediterranean history.

On the second floor of the museum we were amazed by the huge collection of European ceramics.  There are some beautiful dining sets and porcelain figurines.  The next room also houses the musical instruments collection.  See if you can work our which one we thought was similar to the guitar from Disney’s animation film Coco!  On this same level you can see the displays from England 400-1600.  We liked the marble bust of Henry VIII which sparked a conversation with the children about his many wives.  Lilian has been learning about the Tudors at school and recognised who the bust was of immediately.

kids sat on a bench in the china gallery

The third floor is home to the Ashmolean Museum’s modern art collection.  We didn’t make it this far up as the children were getting tired and hungry.  If art is your thing then definitely head to the second and third floors.

lilian stood beneath huge staircase wall of stone busts

The Ground Floor of the museum was our last stop as this has the gift shop.  The shop has a huge variety of souvenirs ranging from pocket money toys to stunning pieces of jewellery.  There is also a cafe on this floor which is ideal for getting a bite to eat.  They serve hot and cold lunches, cakes, croissants and more.  An alternative to the cafe is the rooftop restaurant on the top floor of the museum.  This offers a more elegant dining experience with beautiful views across the city rooftops.

The Ground floor also has lockers for storing belongings, toilets, baby changing area, kids activity area and pushchair storage area.  There are some displays on how conservation of artifacts is carried out and how the Ashmolean Museum began.  The museum has lifts which give access to all floors.  There’s also a ramp to access the museum front so it is fully wheelchair and pushchair friendly.

cody looking through magnifying glass into display case

The Verdict

We really enjoyed our visit to the Ashmolean Museum and I think it’s amazing to have such an amazing place free of charge to visit.  There is so much to see in the galleries.  They also have a variety of traveling exhibitions on display throughout the year.  Keep an eye out on their events page to see whats happening when you plan to visit.  We will definitely be returning.  This is a great place to bring the kid’s school history projects to life!

Facilities Checklist

  • Toilets / Disabled Toilet Yes
  • Pushchair / Wheelchair Friendly Yes ramps and lift access throughout.
  • Disabled access Free touch and description tours for blind or partially sighted. Wheelchairs available to borrow free of charge. Regular events for partially sighted or hearing impaired visitors. Induction loop installed in lecture theatre and information desk. Assistance dogs are welcome and water bowls provided in the cafe.
  • Dog Friendly No dogs except assistance dogs.
  • Refreshments available Large cafe and restaurant
  • Car Park No. Limited street parking outside. Use local car parks or park and ride bus service. Blue badge parking available directly outside.
  • Shop Yes.
  • Baby facilities Baby changing facilities, lockers and pushchair store if you don’t want to take it round the galleries. Highchairs and child friendly menu. Breastfeeding welcome.

Address:  Beaumont Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 2PH

Price:  FREE!


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