With the latest phase of coronavirus restrictions easing, museums and galleries are now in the process of reopening, with many of the exhibitions that had to prematurely close now extended for visitors. Read on for the latest news on where to get your fix of culture in Oxford and further afield.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum
Having implemented a raft of new safety measures, the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum are both set to open on 22nd September - with entry remaining free, but ticketed. The Museum Café inside the Museum of Natural History will remain closed but visitors can enjoy hot drinks and homemade cakes at the Horsebox Coffee Company on the Museum lawn.
North Wall Arts Centre
With their auditorium opening up for socially distanced performances, the North Wall’s free-entry gallery space is also reopening. Their autumn exhibition season starts with Contemplation: Snow Into Water (29 September - 10 October), a reflection through paintings and textiles on the calming effects of nature on the mind - something we can all relate to, post lockdown! Later in the year, the gallery will host the return of the Society of Wood Engravers celebrating their centenary (28 October - 7 November), Philippa James’ 100 Women of Oxford, part of Photo Oxford festival (14 October - 24 October) and for Christmas, a display of Korky Paul’s much-loved Winnie and Wilbur illustrations.
The oldest museum in the United Kingdom, Oxford’s home for art and archaeology is back open, along with the Young Rembrandt exhibition, which has been given an extended run and will now be open until 1st November.
There are a few changes in place. Whilst tickets to the main part of the museum are still free, they will need to be booked in advance. Social distancing will apply throughout, reducing the number of visitors in the venue at any one time. Face coverings should be worn inside and there will be sanitization points accessible throughout. Lockers won’t be accessible and so the Ashmolean asks you not to bring large bags to the museum. There is now a one way route in certain areas.
Modern Art Oxford
Modern Art Oxford is back open, extending their spring exhibition, Johanna Unzueta: Tools for Life, for a two-week run. The gallery will then close again on the 24th August, to prepare for the opening of Mariana Castillo Deball: Between making and knowing something on 2nd October.
In the short time that the space is reopen there will be some differences to how the venue runs. Opening hours have changed to 11am to 4pm, Tuesday to Sunday and you’ll need to book tickets in an allotted time slot (one every 30 minutes). Modern Art Oxford now has a one-way system in place, with an entrance on Pembroke Street. Face coverings will need to be worn and there will be washing stations throughout the building. The shop is open to visitors but the café is currently closed.
Science Oxford Centre
Oxford's answer to London's Science Museum is back, with a raft of covid-proofing measures in place. The centre is running a series of Summer Family Open Days from 15th-29th August, giving curious kids and their grown-ups the chance to learn through play, while enjoying exciting experiments in the Exploration Zone. Tickets must be booked in advance and include 2-hour access to the indoor facilities and all-day access to their outdoor woodland area, perfect for picnics.
The Story Museum
Oxford residents can finally get a look at the £6 million redevelopment of The Story Museum. The museum will be open Thursday to Saturday, 10am-5pm. Visitors can see the new-look ground floor galleries (with the shop and café also open). You’ll also be able to see Small Worlds, a story-themed play space for families and children aged 0-5. Each family will have their own story cart and rug in the Small Worlds, with no need to share toys or equipment between different groups.
Also keep an eye out for upcoming events and the next stages of the venue reopening.
Those looking for an excursion to Banbury can pop into the local museum. It is now open Monday to Saturday, 10am-4pm. Booking will need to be in advance, with social distancing applying throughout as well as face coverings to be worn.
The museum also has a temporary exhibition, Brick Built, showcasing Lego models of iconic buildings.
River & Rowing Museum
Henley’s riverside museum is back with exhibitions, a café and trails to explore. There will be one last chance to see the exhibition Art of the Wild: Gertrude Hermes and the Natural World.
Spaces will be limited and there is a one-way system around the exhibition. Social distancing will be in place and the venue asks you to minimize large bags and personal items you bring in and wear a face covering throughout.
University Church Tower
The tower, which is the oldest part of the church, has now reopened to visitors. Visitors will need to book a ticket (£5) for an allocated 15 minute slot (with arrival five minutes before this).
The country house and its extensive surrounding grounds are back open for visitors. Current highlights include 18-hole mini golf in the walled garden, row boats and the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition. Guests must wear face coverings while inside the Palace buildings. There is now a one-way system as well as a cashless system and social distancing in place.
For those willing to travel slightly further afield, Bletchley Park is now open. This site, which was instrumental in the Allies turning the tide in World War Two, has adapted to allow the majority of the exhibitions, wartime buildings and outdoor spaces to open again. You’ll need to prebook tickets, with last entry at 3pm, and face coverings will need to be worn in all museum buildings. Social distancing is in place and only card payments will be taken on site.
Abingdon Museum will be reopening on Saturday 5th September. Make sure to book your free tickets and check out all their fabulous exhibitions
Oxford Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum
If you’re not quite ready to venture back into a museum, why not pop along to the Botanic Garden or the Harcourt Arboretum for some outdoor beauty? You can book a visit lasting up to two hours, in 30 minute time slots.
The Oxford Artisan Distillery
Tours have recommenced at TOAD where you can learn how they make their vodka, gin and rye whiskey, as well as enjoying a tasting at the end. The distillery has been redesigned to meet the current restrictions with numbers reduced, social distancing in place and hand sanitizers available throughout. If you visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday you can opt to finish up by relaxing in TOAD's newly-established open air bar - advance booking is essential.
Most museums and galleries in Oxford have resources and virtual tours on their website. You can explore the Pitt Rivers in 3D, whilst the Ashmolean’s collections can be viewed online (with 103,500 objects to browse for free). The Bodleian have nineteen years of past exhibitions for you to peruse, whilst Modern Art Oxford are continuing to launch exhibitions online to be enjoyed at home.