UK's oldest museum reopened

Thursday, December 3, 2009

File photo of Ashmolean Museum.
Image: Merlin Cooper.

Queen Elizabeth II officially reopened the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford yesterday, after its £61 million redevelopment. The museum, which is run by the University of Oxford and is the oldest museum in the United Kingdom, was closed for a year during the refurbishment. Under the direction of the architect Rick Mather, a further 39 galleries have been added, along with the first rooftop cafe in Oxford. The project, which replaced the whole building apart from the Grade I listed Cockerell building, received a £15 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum reopened its doors on November 7, 2009, in advance of the official ceremony by the Queen. The guests at the reopening included Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al-Saud, the Saudi Ambassador to Britain.

The Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten, greeted the Queen on her arrival. He said "It is quite literally the most important day in the museum's history since it was founded in 1683. It is a spectacular renovation and transformation of what is really the world's greatest university museum." The museum's director, Christopher Brown, said that it was a "historical moment" for Oxford.

The Queen combined her visit to the museum with celebrations at Brasenose College marking its 500th anniversary. The director of alumni relations and development for Brasenose College, Jennifer Lewis, noted that the founder of the Ashmolean, Elias Ashmole, had been a student at the college, and said that the visit by the Queen to both institutions on the same day was "particularly fitting".