The Ashmolean Museum - a few of its treasures
The collection presented to Oxford in 1683 by Elias Ashmole was originally housed in Broad Street, in what is now the Museum of the History of Science – and was the first museum in England.
Ashmole's collection had in turn been built up around curiosities brought to Oxford in the sixteenth century by John Tradescant and his son. These included a Turkish toothbrush, the Dodo (whose remains are now in the University Museum), various eggs from Turkey, one thought to be a dragon's egg, and 'A Cherry-stone, upon one side St Geo: and the dragon, perfectly cut: and on the other side 88 Emperours faces.' Until recently, a cup made from a Unicorn's horn was on display. It can still be seen, but the horn is now ascribed to a rhinoceros.
Ashmole added some more local items, such as 'a corn, two inches long, taken off a toe of Sarney, a Wheelwright of St Aldate's Parish in oxford, 1655'. Many of the less salubrious exhibits quietly disappeared during the transition to the present Ashmolean building in 1848 – in whose basement the first Oxford Dictionary was produced.
The building was extensively refurbished in 2009, with more floors and a great deal more display space. The top floor houses temporary exhibitions with an entrance fee, but most of the museum is free.