Will be closed for roof repairs throughout 2013. (The Pitt Rivers remains open.) So go and pat the cheetah while you can.
The museum housed in a purpose-built Victorian Gothic building inspired by Ruskin and recently restored. The principal collections, including skeletons of dinosaurs and skulls of our ancestors, are housed in a courtyard with a glass roof supported by columns of cast iron wrought to resemble the branches of trees. A collection of rocks, selected to represent the most important in the British Isles, is also built into the fabric of the building - each delicate pillar round the gallery is made of a different stone. The museum is probably unique in being able to exhibit the nearly-complete remains of a Dodo.
Opening hours: 10am - 5pm daily. Free entry. Wheelchair friendly. Next events at Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Temple of creation or where god died? Tue 28 May: 3-5pm
The geological history of the Cotswolds - an introduction to field geology Sat 1 Jun: From £60
Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot Tue 4 Jun: 3-5pm
Entomology Highlights Tour Tue 11 Jun: 3-5pm
Introduction To Geological Mapping (geology101) Sat 15 Jun: 1pm-5pm
The Early History of Mammals - Plate Tectonics Meets Evolution Sat 15 Jun: From £60.
Beneath the iceberg's tip: Geology highlights tour Tue 18 Jun: 3-5pm
Dung beetles – nature's poo-pickers Tue 25 Jun: 3-5pm
The curious and beautiful world of crystals Mon 22 Jul: 3-5pm
Introduction To Minerals Sat 5 Oct: 10am-5pm, £15
Introduction To Rocks Sat 5 Oct: 10am-5pm, £15
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I love this museum. As a child in Oxford it was one of the best places to be taken to ("the dinosaur museum!"), and the iconic iguanodon skeleton still greets visitors as they enter past the towering jaw of a sperm whale. I hope they never move the iguanodon: you can still see kids and adults being thrilled by it as they come inside.
It is a palace of stone wonders: not just the weird and glittering mineral exhibits, but also the gorgeous building. Apparently Ruskin used to make a special trip out to admire it every day. One of the most amazing things is a series of displays wherein you can (gently) touch a mineral or a stuffed leopard or a fossil. Today I stroked a petrified slice of tree trunk from Madagascar that is 230 million years old.
My favourite exhibit is in the upper galleries. On one side of the hall is a scale model of the sun, about the size of a medium watermelon. If you walk round the beautiful upper galleries to the far side, you can find the earth to scale, the size of a dried pea. The moon, a few inches away, has a diameter of a about half a cumin seed. To scale, the nearest star, Alpha Centuri, would be, the sign informs us, three times as far away as the real moon is from the real earth! It is pleasurably mind-boggling.
I was relieved to see they haven't got rid of the bees, merely moved them from the staircase into a quieter side room. I was - and still am - fascinated by the glass-walled hive of living honey-bees, bustling away. Other living exhibits around the upper galleries include cockroaches, stick insects and even giant spiders, if that's your thing.
I would like to see an extension of the informative signs. They're good as far as they go, but assume a certain familiarity with archaeology that can be a bit baffling. It's all very well to hear that this incredibly old thing is Miocene or whatever, but I'd like more timelines around with numbers on: a small standardised one on every case would work wonders for helping one assimilate all this incredible information.
The gift shop offers beautiful little polished mineral / fossil pebbles at remarkably good prices, as well as toys, jewellery and packs for kids. It's not a hard sell: these are, by and large, beautiful things one would really want rather than the themed plastic tat one sees in most science museum gift shops.
Miranda Rose (DI Staff), 02/07/12
Recently named by the Guardian as Britain's most family friendly museum, Oxford University's Museum of Natural History has a warm welcome for everybody. Follow the Megalosaurus footprints, one of the four dinosaurs to roam Oxfordshire in Jurassic times, along the grass verge from the Wellington Pine to enter the neo-Gothic building and find the UK's second largest Natural History collection. The Museum is open every day from 12 noon to 5pm throughout the year (except for Easter and Christmas holidays), admission is free and each visit offers a brand new experience. Visitors can stroke a stuffed cheetah and touch a giant ammonite from the widely accessible exhibits. Under a railway station style vaulted roof, decorated with wrought foliage and fruits, the story of life on earth unfolds; from single-celled organisms over 550 million years old to the development of multicellular animals and plants. The central court is dominated by a 45 foot long T rex and an Iguanodon skeleton. Another star exhibit is the stuffed Dodo bird which provided inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Lita Doolan (DI Reviewer), 14/11/05
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