Inside the new Ashmolean building © Culture24
Old museums can be dusty places. But walking through Britain's oldest public museum you are today hit by the smell of new oak floorboards and freshly applied white paint.
The Ashmolean in Oxford is reaching the end of a £61m redevelopment project. A few display cases sit empty, the odd label is missing and galleries echo with the sound of occasional drilling.
But on November 7 work should be complete and a tall glass front door in the neoclassical facade will admit visitors to a building which has doubled the institution's size.
The building allows the Ashmolean's collections to be displayed in new ways. © Culture24
Once inside the atrium you get a sense of newfound spaciousness. Six floors open onto one another and offer views into display areas on other levels. A main staircase zig zags all the way to the top.
Award-winning architect Rick Mather joked about the interconnected layout: "We hope you never experience cultural saturation, because you always see an escape." The open structure has allowed staff to present their collections in a way which highlights the relationship between cultures.
Project Manager Henry Kim hopes the innovative strategy, Crossing Cultures Crossing Time, will give future visits to the museum an element of surprise.
"I want everyone who comes to this museum to look at one or two objects and think, Gosh! I never thought of that before," he said.
Inside the impressive new atrium © Culture24
Indeed, the museum can now showcase its collections of textiles and coinage for the first time, alongside galleries of artefacts from Japan, China and the Islamic world.
Further surprises include the new education centre, conservation studios and stylish restaurant, which offers the city's first rooftop dining experience.
Entry remains free of charge and Museum Director Christopher Brown expects a 25 percent rise in footfall. "We have done all our sums on the basis of 500,000 [visitors] a year, but we clearly hope for more," he said. "This is a very large museum and I want a lot of people to come."
Dust may never settle on those new floorboards.
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, opens on November 7. Admission is free. For more information visit the museum website.