A remarkable collection in a remarkable building.
The world’s first museum open to the general public began on this spot. The Old Ashmolean Building stood here; in 1683 it opened its doors to display the collection of Elias Ashmole whose greatly augmented legacy is now to be founded in the Ashmolean on Beaumont Street.
The museum was conceived as a new way of teaching and learning about nature with experimental philosophy being pursued in a chemical laboratory in the basement and lecturing taking place in the School of Natural History on the ground floor. In 1924, with the gift to the university of the collection of Lewis Evans (1853-1930), the museum took on its present role as a Museum of the History of Science.
The present collection is on three floors and covers almost all aspects of the history of science, with collections of astrolabes, sundials, quadrants, early mathematical instruments and optical instruments. Look out for the equatorium on the top floor (one of only two in the world), Lewis Carroll's photographic kit in the basement and George III's silver microscope on the ground floor.
The museum also possesses a unique reference library for the study of the history of scientific instruments that includes manuscripts, incunabula, prints and early photographic material.
Introductory tours to the museum currently take place every Thursday at 2.15 and 3pm. There is no need to book and the tours are free.