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Museums and Galleries in Oxford (Self Guided), Oxford

Oxford is a beautiful British city famous throughout the world for its University and historic places. The city offers a lot of activities and attractions. For example, Oxford is famous for its museums and galleries that are known for their unique collections and that host regular art exhibitions.
Take this tour to discover the history and culture of the city.
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Museums and Galleries in Oxford Map

Guide Name: Museums and Galleries in Oxford
Guide Location: England » Oxford (See other walking tours in Oxford)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Author: Linda
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Bate Collection of Musical Instruments
  • Christ Church Picture Gallery
  • Modern Art Oxford
  • Town Hall & Museum Of Oxford
  • Museum of the History of Science
  • The Ashmolean Museum
  • Oxford University Museum of Natural History
  • The Pitt Rivers Museum
Bate Collection of Musical Instruments

1) Bate Collection of Musical Instruments (must see)

No music lover should miss visiting the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments which is housed in the Faculty of Music on St Aldate’s.

This magnificent collection of mostly Western classical music instruments starts with those used in medieval times and continues through the years to the present. The museum is open to the public and on a lending basis for academic studies.

The collection started in 1964 when the broadcaster Philip Bate gave his collection of musical instruments to the University to be used for teaching purposes. Since then other collections have been either lent or donated, including those of Anthony Baines and Jeremy Montague, both of whom were once Curators at the museum.

The Roger Warner and Michael Thomas Keyboard Collections have an impressive range of early pianos, harpsichords, spinets, virginals and clavichords. You can admire the Reginald Morley-Pegge Memorial Collection of Horns and Other Brass and Wood Instruments, or gaze in wonder at the Edgar Hunt Collection of Recorders and Other Instruments, which includes the famous Bressan treble-recorder.

The museum also holds special exhibitions and other events: on Saturday’s you can take part in the Family Friendly activities where the museum organizes treasure-hunts and lets you try out the instruments in the Handling Collection. Other events include workshops and recitals.

Operation hours: Monday - Friday 2 – 5 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Christ Church Picture Gallery

2) Christ Church Picture Gallery (must see)

Don’t miss a visit to the Christ Church Picture Gallery which is to be found in the Deanery Gardens.

This gallery was built in 1968 by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, especially so that the magnificent art collection could be viewed by the public. It is one of the most important privately owned collections of Old Masters in the United Kingdom.

The collection was in the main part bequeathed to the University by General John Guise. Later donations were made by the British diplomat William Fox-Strangeways, Christopher Patterson, Walter Landor and Sir Richard Nosworthy.

Among the 300 Old Masters, which are mostly 14th to 18th century Italian art, you will see fine examples by Tintoretto, Giovanni de Prado, Annibale Carracci, Duccio and Van Dyck. There is also an important collection of 14th century religious panels.

The gallery also boasts of over 2000 drawings by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Peter Paul Rubens. These drawings are displayed in small rotating exhibitions, so not all of them can be seen together at any one time.

The gallery also holds temporary exhibitions of works by modern artists such as Jeff Clarke and Karen Forsyth. Other temporary exhibitions include photographic art and print-making techniques by the Oxford Printmakers’ Cooperative.

Hours: Monday- Saturday: 10 am -5 pm; Sunday: 2 pm- 5 pm.
Modern Art Oxford

3) Modern Art Oxford (must see)

Modern Art Oxford is one of the most interesting galleries in the UK. It hosts a lot of temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles and photography, by artists of the 20th century from all around the world. The exhibitions are often accompanied by certain activities, such as talks, poetry, movies, gallery tours and publications.

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
Town Hall & Museum Of Oxford

4) Town Hall & Museum Of Oxford

The Museum of Oxford is located in the Town Hall on St Aldate’s and is the place to visit if you want to discover all about the city’s and the University’s history.

It is a very interesting museum full of pre-historical items, such as a mammoth tooth and an excellent example of a Roman pottery kiln. There are many artefacts from the University and several reconstructed rooms.

These rooms include an Elizabethan inn, a Victorian kitchen on what is obviously a washing day, an 18th century college classroom and a nineteen thirties living room.

In the “A to Z of Literary Oxford” section of the museum you will find details of the lives and stories about Oxford’s literati. One of the most important of these is Charles Dodgson – better known as Lewis Carroll, the creator of “Alice in Wonderland”. Along with his history you will also find the story of Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired the heroine’s name in the “Alice” books.

There are several of Carroll’s and Ann’s personal treasures – a fob watch, sliver scissors, calling card cases and a biscuit tin given to Alice by Carroll and which she kept as a souvenir.

The museum has a very good gift shop where you will find copies of Lewis Carroll’s books and other books about the history of Oxford and the University.

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm
Museum of the History of Science

5) Museum of the History of Science (must see)

The Museum of the History of Science is located in the Old Ashmolian Building on Broad Street and it is the oldest surviving building in the world constructed for the purpose of being a museum. Admission is free of charge.

It was built in 1683 to house Elias Ashmole’s formidable collection of over 18000 objects covering every aspect of the history of science. The collection expanded in 1924 when artefacts from the estate of Lewis Evans were added to the museum.

The collections are housed in three different galleries on three floors: the Entrance Gallery on the ground floor is where you will find the reception, the museum shop, four corner exhibitions and temporary exhibitions. The museum’s reference library has a comprehensive collection of scientific books.

In the Basement Gallery the displays deal with chemistry, natural philosophy and medical equipment. There are optical instruments including cameras, telescopes and microscopes, and early radio equipment by Marconi. You will also find a blackboard that was used by Albert Einstein when he visited the University.

The Top Gallery is full of mathematical instruments: quadrants, sundials and early instruments used for calculating navigation, surveying and astronomy and the most important astrolabe collection in the world with over 170 items.

Hours: Tuesday- Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm.
The Ashmolean Museum

6) The Ashmolean Museum (must see)

The Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street is a wonderful “Aladdin’s Cave” of a museum to visit and it will delight everyone.

It was the first university museum in the world and was created in 1678 to house the cabinet of curiosities donated by Elias Ashmole. It moved to its current location in 1845, built by Charles Cockerall to accommodate the growing collection.

The museum has a great collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, drawings by da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, and several watercolors by Turner.

Many of the archaeological artifacts are from Ashmole’s private collection and those of John Tradescant the Elder and the Younger. Father and son were naturalists, botanists and travelers.

The exhibitions display antique coins, books, engravings and geological specimens. The beautiful collection of Greek and Minoan pottery and artifacts from Ancient Egypt and Sudan are from the estate of Arthur Evans, the archaeologist who unearthed the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete.

The rest of the collection is a superb pot-pourri of curios including Oliver Cromwell’s Death Mask, the lantern used by Guy Fawkes when he attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, the Alfred Jewel, the Abingdon Sword and Lawrence of Arabia’s ceremonial Arab head-dress.

Operation hours: Monday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Oxford University Museum of Natural History

7) Oxford University Museum of Natural History (must see)

A visit to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History is a very interesting way of spending an afternoon.

The museum was founded in 1850, but had no building of its own and the natural history specimens were scattered all over the city in other museums. The museum’s building was constructed in 1860, commissioned by Sir Henry Acland and built by Benjamin Woodward and Thomas Dean.

The building is Neo-Gothic and very beautiful. The museum is housed in a large court with a glass roof that is supported by cast iron pillars. These pillars separate the court into three aisles. Around the ground and first floors there are secluded arcades with stone columns. The stone and iron columns are ornately decorated with branches and leaves. The many statues in the museum represent great scientists including Aristotle, Darwin, Bacon and Linnaeus.

The collections display zoological, entomological, paleontological, geological and mineralogical artifacts. There is a splendid collection of crabs brought to England by Charles Darwin. You will see fossils, dinosaurs and amazing insect specimens. The pride of the museum is the head and claw of the last Dodo.

Not long after the museum opened it was the venue of the “Great Debate” between the Bishop of Oxford and Thomas Huxley, a botanist and admirer of Darwin. The debate centered on the theory of evolution by natural selection versus religious belief and is one of the most famous debates in history.

Operation hours: Monday - Sunday 10 am – 5 pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Pitt Rivers Museum

8) The Pitt Rivers Museum (must see)

When you have finished visiting the Museum of Natural History, don’t leave without going to see the Pitt-Rivers Museum whose entrance is in the Natural History Museum.

This brilliant museum houses one of the best archaeology and anthropology collections in the world. It began with 20000 objects donated by Lieutenant General Pitt-Rivers on the understanding that archaeology and anthropology be taught at the University. All the museum staff are teachers of these two subjects.

The collection now has over half a million artifacts spread out on three storeys of wrought iron verandas. Most of these items were donated to the museum by travelers and missionaries and include handmade objects from ancient cultures.

The wonderful thing about this museum is that the items on display in wood and glass cases are arranged according to their use, instead of chronologically. This was Pitt-Rivers idea of how a museum should display its exhibits and it is a very good idea, because in this way you can plainly see the evolution of design and culture.

So you will see canoes in different stages of sophistication suspended from the ceiling, farming tools, trepanning tools that make you feel very lucky to have been born in the 20th century and other medical articles and items used in witchcraft, including a pickled slug that was used to cure warts.

Among the more amusing items is an antique Chinese opium pipe next to a modern “bong” made from a Coca-Cola bottle used for smoking marijuana, donated recently by students.

Opening hours: Monday- 12:00- 16.30; Tuesday to Sunday- 10.00 - 16.30 (and bank holiday Mondays);
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Oxford, England

Create Your Own Walk in Oxford

Create Your Own Walk in Oxford

Creating your own self-guided walk in Oxford is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Landmarks of Oxford

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Oxford is a very beautiful city, with a rich culture and history. It offers a lot of splendid landmarks and monuments, many of them dating back hundreds of years and illustrating the historic heritage of the city. This walking tour will guide you through the most attractive landmarks of Oxford.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Oxford Introduction Walk

Oxford Introduction Walk

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Oxford University Walking Tour

Oxford University Walking Tour

The University of Oxford is the oldest institution of its kind and one of the best in England. It represents a "federation", consisting of 38 self-governing Colleges and 6 Permanent Private Halls. Take this tour to find out the most beautiful and worth-seeing colleges in Oxford.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Religious Buildings in Oxford

Religious Buildings in Oxford

Oxford is home to a great range of sites related to the history of English Christianity. Many churches, college chapels and prayer houses with tremendous architecture can be seen here. Take this self-guided tour to discover the most important religious building in Oxford.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Nightlife in Oxford

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Oxford is a cosmopolitan and youthful city, with a lot of things to do and places to go. The city offers a wide range of clubs with great music and thematic programs, as well as different pubs and bars catering to all tastes. Check out the most popular clubs in Oxford on this self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 Km or 0.4 Miles
Jericho Walk in Oxford

Jericho Walk in Oxford

Jericho is a historic suburb of Oxford. Initially an industrial area, it has developed grace to the presence of Oxford Channel. Nowadays Jericho has a lot of venues and landmarks to offer. Take this tour and see the main attractions in Jericho.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles