Museum of the History of Science

MHS Basement Gallery
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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
Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
MHS logo

Ahoy There!

  • 1 — 2 June 2017 2-4pm

Discover early voyages of exploration with maps, globes, and hands-on activities with navigational instruments.
Drop-in. Suitable for ages 7-13.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13


An images of one of the Museum's new board games.

Board Games and Medieval Medicine

  • 28 May 2017 2-4pm
  • 25 June 2017 2-4pm
  • 30 July 2017 2-4pm
  • 27 August 2017 2-4pm
  • 24 September 2017 2-4pm

The Museum of the History of Science is helping to develop new board games about medieval Islamic medicine. Help test our board games and give us your feedback.
Drop-in, ages 7+.
This event is running regularly on the last Sunday of every month.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+


Two children looking at an astrolabe.

House of Wisdom

  • 17 June 2017 12-4pm

A festival of science and medicine in the early Islamic world with talks, activities, board games and more.

Find out how scientists in early Islamic civilisations mapped the stars, and discover medieval medicine through exciting new board games and activities at the Museum of the History of Science.

For Oxfordshire Science Festival
Drop-in, ages 7+.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 16-17
  • 14-15


William Herschel and the Universe

  • 13 June 2017 6-7:30pm

The Museum of the History of Science will host a special viewing of the new film William Herschel and the Universe. Introduced by former Museum Director Professor Jim Bennett and the filmmaker George Sibley, the film will be followed by a Q&A.

On March 13th, 1781, in his own back yard, using a telescope he built himself, a 42-year old musician named William Herschel found a new planet for the first time in history. That discovery doubled the size of the known solar system and would change not only his own life, but astronomy as well. William Herschel and the Universe, a film by Florida film maker George Sibley, tells the story of how a previously unknown amateur astronomer and his telescopes took the scientific world by storm.

Watch the trailer here:

Please reserve a ticket through Eventbrite.

Please note that the doors to the Museum will open at 5.45pm and the event begins promptly at 6pm.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17


The Contagion Cabaret: a quirky theatrical evening of drama, discussion and disease

  • 20 June 2017 7:30-10pm

Killer germs, superbugs, pestilent plagues and global pandemics have fascinated writers, musicians and thinkers for centuries. As diseases spread through a culture, likewise myths and ideas travel virally through film, literature, theatre and social media.

Join a cast of actors, scientists and literary researchers for an inventive illustration of infectious extracts from plays and music, past and present. This homage to all things contagious will take place in the suitably atmospheric setting of the Museum of the History of Science. Be sure to bring your antiseptic wipes.

Please reserve a ticket through Eventbrite.

Please note that the doors to the Museum will open at 7.15pm and the talk begins promptly at 7.30pm. Late arrivals cannot be guaranteed entry.

For Oxfordshire Science Festival.

Suitable for

  • 18+


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.