Spending spring break in Oxford has given me plenty of time to do some extra exploring that I couldn’t squeeze in during the past two terms. One of my recent excursions has been spending an afternoon at the Ashmolean, the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology. Founded in 1683, it is the world’s first university museum as well as the oldest public museum in the world. (Not too shabby!) As someone who loves strolling through museums back home in the States, I was eager to finally spend some quality time in the Ashmolean.
The first thing that strikes you as soon as you walk into the Ashmolean is the sheer number of artifacts it holds. From coins and ceramics to sculptures and paintings, this museum has a little bit of everything. It’s refreshing to have such a variety of pieces all in one place–when you’ve seen enough Egyptian tablets to suit your fancy, you can head on over to the Impressionist paintings. With that said, I would definitely recommend grabbing a map at the entrance before you dive into any galleries. I got lost too many times to count and ended up doing laps around certain floors in order to find the way out!
While I must admit that I did miss my usual favorites from museums back home (especially Monet!) it was lovely to explore art by artists that I wasn’t familiar with before. One of my new favorites is Camille Pissarro, to whom the Ashmolean has nearly an entire room dedicated. I particular adored his painting Bouquet of Pink Peonies (1873) because it is so beautiful and peaceful. I must have spent several minutes just standing there admiring it!
I also really appreciate the fact that this museum is free, although they do encourage donations at the door. In a city largely populated by students for many months of the year, I think it’s incredibly important to keep art and history accessible to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Free entry also gives people the flexibility to come and go from the museum throughout their time at Oxford without worrying about trying to cram everything into one visit. Rather than try to see everything the museum has to offer at once, museum goers can leisurely explore the galleries at their own pace.
I would highly recommend visiting the Ashmolean if you’re ever in Oxford. Whether you adore paintings, ancient artifacts, or simply want to spend the afternoon in a peaceful, quiet environment, this remarkable museum is a must-see!
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Have you ever been to the Ashmolean? What’s your favorite kind of museum? Do you have a favorite museum in particular? Let me know in the comments section below!