Oxford University

The Ashmolean - five
years since the reopening

Dr Xa Sturgis by John Cairns

In 2009, the world’s first university museum reopened its doors following a remarkable makeover. This was a new phase for the Ashmolean: the new building doubled its display space, and enabled the creation of a new Education Centre and state-of-the-art conservation studios, among other new facilities.

This year, another significant phase begins. Professor Christopher Brown CBE has just handed over the leadership of the museum to Dr Alexander Sturgis (pictured), who has been the Director of the Holburne Museum in Bath for the last nine years. ‘I am both proud and excited to be leading the Ashmolean in the next phase of its own story,’ says Dr Sturgis. ‘It has always been a great collection, and it is now unquestionably a great museum. The excitement of this “new Ashmolean” is the way in which the objects and works of art displayed can all now be seen as part of bigger stories to be followed across cultures and across the centuries.’

I am both proud and excited to be leading the Ashmolean in the next phase of its own story. It has always been a great collection, and it is now unquestionably a great museum.

Key to this new phase is the Ashmolean’s endowment campaign, launched this autumn, which aims to raise enough funds to allow the museum to sustain its core activities in perpetuity. As Dr Sturgis explains: ‘An endowment is essential to enable the museum to continue to do all it does so well into the future: invest in our collections and in people to safeguard them, increase our understanding of them through research and teaching, and inspire and delight our many visitors.’

The last five years...

  • June 2009

    Titian’s Triumph of Love acquired

    Researchers at the museum discovered that the painting, which hadn’t been exhibited in public since 1960, was originally used as a cover to protect a female portrait. The Art Fund, the Wolfson Foundation and private donors supported the acquisition.

  • November 2009

    The Ashmolean reopens

    Designed by the late Rick Mather, the new building enabled the museum to host major temporary exhibitions. With 100% more display space, the Ashmolean now also houses an Education Centre and Oxford’s first roof-top restaurant.

  • September 2010

    The Pre-Raphaelites and Italy exhibition is launched

    This started the Ashmolean’s major exhibition programme, which was made possible by the redevelopment of the museum building. The Ashmolean has continued to put on exhibitions that attract international and national visitors – the latest of these was Cézanne and the Modern.

  • November 2011

    The Egyptian Galleries open

    Accumulated over 300 years, the Ashmolean’s Egyptian collections are world renowned. Thanks to generous support from Lord Sainsbury’s Linbury Trust, along with numerous trusts, foundations and individual donors, children and adults alike can now explore more of the fascinating collections than ever before.

  • August 2012

    Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus acquired

    There are only a few important Manet paintings in the UK, of which this is one. Acquired thanks to a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Art Fund, and a crowdfunding effort, which raised a total of £7.83 million, this portrait has made the Ashmolean a world-leading centre for the study of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.

  • October 2012

    University Engagement Programme launches

    You don’t have to be an archaeology or history of art student to learn through the objects at the Ashmolean. With the support of the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, this programme is bringing the museum closer to students and scholars from areas as diverse as cardiology, Anglo-Saxon literature and geography.

  • May 2013

    The Ashmolean commemorates its 330th birthday

    John Tradescant, a naturalist and traveller, died in 1662, leaving his cabinet of curiosities to his friend Elias Ashmole. The collection was later gifted to the University of Oxford on the condition that it would be displayed publicly in a museum. So the Ashmolean Museum opened in 1683.

  • September 2013

    The Ashmolean at Broadway opens in the Cotswolds

    Working in partnership with Worcestershire County Council, the Keil family, and local groups, the Ashmolean transformed a historic house in the Cotswold village of Broadway into a museum. Many objects from the 17th to the 21st century are displayed here.

  • October 2013

    Sullivan bequest of modern Chinese art received

    This is the single greatest collection of Chinese modern art in the West. The collection includes more than 400 works of art gathered by Professor Michael Sullivan (1915–2013), a world authority on modern Chinese Art, and his wife Khoan.

  • The Ashmolean launches its endowment campaign

    The museum is fundraising to build a significant endowment, which will ensure its core objectives – care and conservation of the collections, teaching, research, and public engagement – are secured in perpetuity. The Ashmolean aims to raise its endowment to £25 million within the next five years.

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Photo Credits The Ashmolean; Greg Smolonski; David Fisher; John Cairns