Back to the future
PUBLISHED: 15:39 23 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:18 20 February 2013
On Saturday, November 7 the beautifully redesigned Ashmolean Museum will throw open its doors to the public for the first time.
Following a major £61 million redevelopment, funded with a 15 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with additional major support from the Linbury Trust, along with numerous trusts, foundations and individuals, the opening has been much-anticipated.
The award-winning architect Rick Mather has designed a new building to provide the Ashmolean with almost twice as much display space in a world-class building which is now a match for its world-class collections. Located to the north of Charles Cockerell's original museum built in 1845, it will comprise 39 new galleries, including four new temporary exhibition galleries, a new education centre, conservation studios, a walkthrough to the museum and the Cast Gallery, and Oxford's first rooftop caf.
An innovative approach to displaying the collections - Crossing Cultures Crossing Time - will transform the way the Ashmolean's rare and beautiful objects are understood by visitors. Each object's story will be told by tracing the journey of ideas and influences through time and across continents, enabling visitors to discover how civilisations developed as part of an interrelated world culture. Themed galleries will explore the connections between objects and activities common to different cultures, while entire floors of galleries will be arranged chronologically, charting the development of the ancient and modern worlds.
Arranged over five floors with level access throughout, thousands of objects previously held in storage will be shown to their best advantage, and advanced environmental controls will allow even the most rare and fragile items to be displayed. The extensive temporary exhibition space will enable the Ashmolean to host crowd-pulling 'blockbuster' exhibitions.
One of the newest and most important acquisitions is Titian's The Triumph of Love, which, prior to its summer showing at the National Gallery, had not been seen since it was exhibited in 1960 at the Royal Academy. Now, following extensive and careful restoration, the painting will be on permanent display at the Ashmolean.
Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is the most important museum of art and archaeology in the heart of Britain. The collections span the civilisations of east and west, charting the aspirations of mankind from the Neolithic era to the present day. Among its treasures are the world's largest collection of Raphael drawings, the most important collection of pre-Dynastic Egyptian material in Europe, the only great Minoan collection in Britain, the greatest Anglo-Saxon collections beyond the British Museum, and the foremost collection of modern Chinese art in the Western world.
The Ashmolean, as a teaching and research department of the University of Oxford, and invaluable showcase for some of the world's most important collections of art history, archaeology and history, will be welcomed in its newest incarnation with open arms.
The Ashmolean, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH, tel: 01865 278000, www.ashmolean.org