June 6, 2012 - Anniversary of the Opening of the Ashmolean

– 1683

An English archeologist named Elias Ashmole cleaned out his attic. There were all sorts of interesting items and “curiosities” that he had collected in his life...What to do with it all?

Ashmole decided to donate his stuff to Oxford University.

University personnel hired the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren to design a building to house the collection, and on this date in 1683, the building was finished, the exhibits installed, and the museum opened to the public.

It was the world's first university museum, and even the word museum was new to English!

Exhibits...then and now...

Ashmole donated antique coins, books, engravings, rocks and minerals, and stuffed (or taxidermied) animals, including the last Dodo bird ever seen in Europe. (Unfortunately, the Dodo was eaten by moths, and only the head and one claw are still around today.) The museum now contains fine art and archeological specimens: Pre-Raphaelite paintings, English silver, Greek and Minoan pottery, Egyptian antiquities, the ceremonial cloak of Pocahontas's father, the death mask of military leader/villain-and-hero Oliver Cromwell, ceremonial clothes owned by Lawrence of Arabia, and much, much more.

If there is a college or university near you, check out the campus. There may well be a musuem somewhere on the grounds! Enjoy!

Also on this date:

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