Museum of the History of Science

MHS Basement Gallery
Guided tours icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Visual disability facilities icon Wheelchair access icon

The Museum of the History of Science houses an unrivalled collection of early scientific instruments in the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building, the Old Ashmolean on Broad Street, Oxford. The Museum is a research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, offering free access to its permanent displays and a programme of special exhibitions, family-friendly events, talks and tours, along with taught sessions for schools. For those unable to come to Oxford online versions of exhibitions are available, alongside standalone online resources on the website:

The entire collection of the Museum of the History of Science is a Designated Collection of national importance.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Tuesday to Sunday: 12:00 - 17:00
Closed on Monday.

Admission charges



  • National Art Pass

Additional info

Our library is open to the public by appointment.

The entire collection of this museum is a Designated Collection of national importance.

This museum occupies the original home of Elias Ashmole's museum, the oldest purpose-built museum in Britain. Its Designated collections are dominated by an exceptional collection of early mathematical and scientific instruments from antiquity to the twentieth century, including the largest collection of astrolabes in the world. A highlight of this group of objects is the earliest known Persian astrolabe, dating from the 10th century.

The early sundial collection comprises 750 examples, the earliest being a portable Roman dial from around 250AD. The microscope collections, an important collection of telescopes, and photographic equipment including items that belonged to Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and TE Lawrence, are further important facets of this remarkable museum.

Particular strengths include early mathematical instruments, optical instruments, and apparatus associated with chemistry, natural philosophy and medicine. There is also a unique reference library for the study of the history of scientific instruments that includes manuscripts, incunabula, prints, printed ephemera and early photographic material.

Collection details

World Cultures, Science and Technology, Natural Sciences, Medicine, Maritime, Decorative and Applied Art, Archives

Key artists and exhibits

  • Einstein blackboard
  • H. G. J. Moseley
  • penicillin
  • Howard Florey
  • Royal Astronomical Society
  • Royal Microscopical Society
  • Earl of Orrery
  • spherical astrolabe
  • Erasmus Habermel
  • Lewis Evans
  • Designated Collection
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
A self-portrait colour photograph by Sarah Angelina Acland

Women in Science

  • 18 May — 30 December 2018 *on now

100 years ago, the first group of women won the right to vote in the UK. In this centenary year, there is widespread recognition of the political role women have played in society.

But what about the vital contributions women have made to science over the centuries? For 2018 the Museum will be celebrating women throughout history who have contributed to our knowledge of the universe.

Portrait Display - From March 2018
This display celebrates women who have been part of the scientific world, from the 1700s to the present day. Each scientific woman is linked to our Museum, either through an item in the collections or by their roles at the University of Oxford. It includes Sarah Angelina Acland, who was a pioneer of colour photography in the early 1900s, and Mary Somerville, who was known as “The Queen of Nineteenth Century Science”.

Family Trail - From March 2018
Women have been involved in science for thousands of years as astronomers, mathematicians, instrument makers, and merchants.
Use this family trail to travel through our collections and find out about women like Caroline Herschel, an astronomer, and Ada Lovelace, a forerunner of computer coding. Suitable for ages 7+.

In the Archives - From June 2018
A display of rarely seen material from the Museum’s archive featuring Sarah Acland, Elizabeth Hippisley and more.

Shout Out For Women Trail - From July 2018
This trail across the collections of Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums aims to highlight just some of the incredible women who are represented within our wonderful collections and buildings, from artists and scientists to curators.

Suitable for

  • Any age




Museum of the History of Science
Broad Street




01865 277280

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.