The Ashmolean is the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683.
The museum’s world famous collections range from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art, telling human stories across cultures and across time.
The Ashmolean came into existence when the wealthy antiquary Elias Ashmole gifted his collection to the University in 1682. He did so ‘because the knowledge of Nature is very necessary to human life and health.’ It opened as Britain’s first public museum, and the world’s first university museum. Members of the public were admitted to the Ashmolean Museum from the outset, which was a controversial policy in the 17th century.
Though the collection has evolved considerably, the founding principle remains: that knowledge of humanity across cultures and across times is important to society.
When Ashmole gifted this collection to the University, it was combined with an older University collection, which included Guy Fawkes’s lantern and Jacob’s Coat of Many Colours (long since lost). The original Ashmolean Museum opened on Broad Street in 1683, in the building that is now the Museum of the History of Science.