My family went to Oxford to visit Pitt Rivers Museums and Oxford University Museum of Natural History. While there, and as it was so close, we also went to Britain’s First Museum Ashmolean Museum (next blog).
We first went to Pitt Rivers and Oxford University Museum of Natural History. These museums are unique in that although they are two museums, they are under the same roof. I’ve met the very creative and hard working educational officers at Kids in Museum Family Fortune Workshop when they were describing what they did to win the prestigious Kids in Museums Family Friendly Award in 2005. I was so excited to actually be there and see the work I’ve only heard about.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
The building itself is very much like the Natural History Museum, London with fascinating architecture and details on the grand building. You walk into the front part of the gorgeous museum which is the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. The site that hits you first is the tyranosaurous Rex. There is also a scene of animal skeletons in a line as if they are walking towards the door off to the left. It’s a fun and fanciful scene which sets the tone of the museum straight away.
Charlotte enjoyed being able to touch most of the items that were on display. Still not sure if some of this was out specifically for the holiday but either way, very nice addition.
One of my favourites of course, was the Dodo. Since seeing this bird for the first time at the Natural History Museum, London, I’ve fallen in love with this poor downtrodden bird. Due to it’s quirky shape and size, explorers killed this bird to bring back as trophies but not before trying it with different recipes. Unfortunately, the same explorers assumed these exotic birds that were first located on Mauritius were plentiful on other island they had yet to explore.
The museum is extremely kid friendly with different trails and activities available. The information labels were easy to follow and encouraged kids to think further then the item they were looking at.
We then went to Pitt Rivers, which is located through a grand door in the back of Natural History. Pitt Rivers Museums which opened in 1892 thanks to Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers who gifted his collection to the University on condition they ‘build a museum to house it, appoint a lecturer to teach about it and maintain the general mode of display’. When you walk in you are greeted with this magnificent, powerful sight. It is a traditional museum as you’d expect to see on tv when they are trying to create the quintessential scene.
The cabinets are crammed FULL of artefacts and they make no apologizes for this. Their philosophy is they would rather have more items on display and let the people who require more data ask.
Kids are provided a flashlight to help identify items and focus their attention more. As its Christmas week, it was quite crowded but still very enjoyable. There were plenty of kids working on the trails as we investigated each of the cabinets.
The collections are unique in that it isn’t about anything specific, more about human activities throughout the world. Examples of puppets, shrunken heads, housing, guns, swords (most weapons), transportation, pottery, etc are all included in the collection. It sounds like it could be overwhelming but you only need to look at the cases that interest you.
The exhibitions cover 3 floors:
- Ground: Magic, Masks, Music
- 1st: Tattoos, Tools, Toys
- 2nd: Shields, Spears, Samurai
Both museums are free to enter with donation requests at the front. The gift shops had items that were reasonably priced.
The museums are worthy of a visit, or two or more! Kids of all ages will have a wonderful time. We spent a few hours but they are both museums that you can spend all day in or dip in and out as you want and always find something new and exciting.