5 Best Museums in Oxford


The city of Oxford is a valuable asset in British history. Due to its location along the upper reaches of the river Thames, Oxford has long been a place of importance and museums in Oxford are but jewels in the crown of Britain.

The city is a witness to Britain’s historic events and houses one of the most popular universities in the UK, the University of Oxford.

Perhaps more than any other thing, the museums in Oxford are the most visited buildings on account of their fascinating past and significance in the field of science and not only because they preserve a million historical artifacts in their massive infrastructure.

Museums in Oxford

An exhibition of paintings
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By the end of the twelfth century, the University of Oxford was well established. Built-in the fashion of the University of Paris, the university had faculties of law, theology, and liberal arts.

With such an amount of history being staged around its perimeters, perhaps it is impossible to separate it from the museums which are nothing short of altars of history.

One should visit these marvels with massive architecture displaying fossils and explore the art exhibition curated by professionals and specialists in their fields.

Best Places in Oxford

Try the best places in Oxford but a journey to Oxford would be incomplete without visiting the exhibition of the enchanted library of historic objects.

The tours of important buildings in England are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Not only this, but many of these museums also allow free entry.

Because of their themes and exhibits, three museums in Oxford that deserve special mention, apart from those on the list, are:

  • Modern Art Oxford Museum

These hidden treasures of knowledge do not just exhibit works of art of historical importance, such as the original penicillin culture, rather they boast a new display of modern art as well.

The modern art museum in Oxford offers the opportunity to admire modern and contemporary art. The Modern Art Museum in Oxford symbolizes the evolution and development in the field of art.

  • Oxford University Press Museum

Located on Great Clarendon Street, there is also the Oxford University Press Museum, which is the world’s largest university press.

  • Museum of Oxford

Located in the Oxford Town Hall, this history museum covers the history of Oxford’s people, along with other valuable ancient artifacts.

Most of the museums in Oxford allow free entry into the galleries and provide guides for tours of exhibitions.

The museums in Oxford are very popular and are visited by people in huge numbers. This popularity lies purely in their world-famous ancient collection.

Out of several exquisite museums in Oxford, the five best museums are listed below:

1. Oxford University Museum of Natural History

A skeleton in a museum
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This museum was originally opened sometime around 1860. The Oxford University Museum of natural history has a display of many natural history specimens from the University of Oxford.

This museum in Oxford houses a lecture theatre which is often used by several departments of the university.

History and the Architecture

The architecture of the Natural History Museum is Neo-Gothic. It  designed by two Irish architects, namely Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward.

Supported by cast iron pillars, there is a large square space fitted with a huge glass roof.

The court is divided into three aisles, and the pillars are ornamented with carvings of leaves and branches—signifying the museum’s role in scientific development.

Statues of several eminent personalities, from Aristotle to Darwin, are housed in the building.

Important Events

The museum’s theatre has been a witness to some of the most significant events, including famous debates in the history of mankind.

Famously, the theory of evolution presented by Charles Darwin was debated here. Though very few eyewitness accounts are found for the same.

Located on Parks Road in Oxford, the Museum of natural history is extremely popular not only because of its varied objects and artifacts but also for its history and for being a center for scientific progress and development.

This museum in Oxford hosts exhibitions with vast displays of art pieces as well as fossils.


The displays in the University Museum of Natural History have the following sections:

  • the Palaeontological Collections,
  • life collections, and
  • the archive collection

2. Pitt Rivers Museum

An exhibition
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This museum is located in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. It was founded by Augustus Pitt Rivers in 1884. He also donated his private collection to this museum in Oxford.

Pitt Rivers Museum displays the world-famous collections of archaeology and anthropology at the University of Oxford.

The Building

The museum building is a large colonnaded room. There are two levels and a massive ceiling. The museum exhibits various items in fine glass cases.

Organization of the Exhibition

As opposed to the chronological arrangement the objects in this museum in Oxford are arranged typologically. It refers to being arranged according to their use in different cultures.

The typological arrangement of the collection over the building’s three floors is based upon the theories of Augustus Pitt Rivers. He wanted the arrangement to signify the evolution and progression of the use and design of the item.


This museum in Oxford has the following artifacts in its collection:

  • Many Shot’s robes
  • Carved figures from New Zealand
  • Noah’s Ark toy
  • a Qur’an stand from Iran

3. Ashmolean Museum

Museums in Oxford
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Initially established to house the Cabinet of Curiosities, a collection donated by Elias Ashmole to the University of Oxford, the Ashmolean Museum is the oldest public museum of art and archaeology in Britain.

The museum was opened in 1683 with Elias Ashmole’s collection, which he had acquired from several collectors.

The collection included coins, books, and many other specimens of geology and zoology.

The Building

Located on Beaumont Street, the building of this museum in Oxford was designed in the neo-classical style by Charles R. Cockerell.

One of the wings of the building, occupied by the modern language faculty, has been designed in the Ionic style of Greek architecture.

Recently, much of the interior space of the museum has been renovated and made into a style that reflects modern architecture.


This museum in Oxford displays large collections of archaeological and fine art specimens. Some of the famous collections of the museum are:

  • Drawings by Correggio
  • A lantern belonging to Guy Fawkes of the Gunpowder Plot
  • Paintings by J. M. W. Turner

4. Bate Collection of Musical Instruments

A painting exhibition
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This museum houses historic musical instruments dating as far back as the middle ages.

Situated in the Faculty of Music of the University of Oxford, the museum mainly holds a collection of Western classical music.

The collection includes musical instruments from England, France, and Germany. This highlights the evolution of music from the times of the Renaissance to the modern era.


Philip Bate, whose name the museum bears, gave his collection to Oxford University provided that a specialist curator would care for them.

The original collection consisted mainly of woodwinds but since its establishment, other valuables such as keyboards, brass, books, percussion, and several audio recordings have been donated by people. Thereby expanding the collection.

Since the collection spans a long period of musical history, the museum in Oxford also contains music pieces along with instruments from the Renaissance, the Baroque, the classical, and modern styles of music.

Besides, the unique feature of the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments is that it allows musicians to use the instruments displayed in the exhibition.

This helps musicians and students to explore their research into performance techniques.

Because it is in the faculty of music, the museum’s visiting hours are restricted, but that does not affect its popularity among the public.

Some Famous Collections

This museum in Oxford has the following important collections:

  • the Reginald Morley-Pegge Memorial Collection
  • the Rodger Warner Keyboard Collection

5. Museum of the History of Science

Museum with huge gallery
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The History of Science Museum in Oxford is the world’s oldest surviving museum. It was built in 1683 on Broad Street to house Elias Ashmole’s collection

Its collection includes scientific instruments from the middle ages.


This museum in Oxford was originally built to provide a center for new learning about nature, where experiments were performed and lectures were held in the School of Natural History.

In 1924, Lewis Evans also donated his collection of scientific instruments.

The collection along the building plays a significant role in the evolution of Western culture and its conservation.

The museum’s large displays include scientific and early mathematical instruments, optical instruments, equipment used in philosophy, chemistry, and also various manuscripts.

It also contains around eighteen thousand objects, all of which represent different aspects of the history of science.

Besides being used for academic study, the museum also entertains a wide range of people.

This museum in Oxford allows free entry, and you can donate money as well.

Famous Collection

This museum in Oxford has the following significant collection:

  • Einstein’s blackboard was used by Albert Einstein in his lectures when he visited the University of Oxford

The Footnote

Museum with an exhibition
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The museums in Oxford are the center of culture. They do not just collect histories and art in their massive buildings of fine architecture. They stand as living witnesses to the exhibitions of history house within.

While visiting the historical city, one must visit these museums in Oxford to get acquainted with the fascinating history, the architecture. And most importantly, the tradition of conservation and preservation of ancient remains and historical, modern, and contemporary art.

These best museums in Oxford present stories of the past to the present-day world. One should visit Oxford’s museums and explore the exhibitions and majestic galleries with interesting historical objects.


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