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. An active public museum, MHS offers an extensive programme of exhibitions, family-friendly events, public lectures, gallery tours and much more, along with teaching 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

(Until January 2015)

Tues-Fri 12.00-17.00
Sat 10.00 - 17.00
Sun 14.00-17.00

Closed: 24, 25, 26, 29 December and 1, 2 January 2015

NOTE: From 3 January 2015 the Museum will have new opening hours:

Tuesday-Sunday 12.00-17.00

Admission charges


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.
Dear Harry main ident

‘Dear Harry…’- Henry Moseley: A Scientist Lost to War

  • 14 May 2015 — 31 January 2016 *on now

Henry ‘Harry’ Moseley was an exceptionally promising young English physicist in the years immediately before World War I. His work on the X-ray spectra of the elements provided a new foundation for the Periodic Table and contributed to the development of the nuclear model of the atom. Yet Moseley’s life and career were cut short when he was killed in 1915, aged 27, in action at Gallipoli, Turkey.

With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Museum of the History of Science’s centenary exhibition, ‘Dear Harry…’ – Henry Moseley: A Scientist Lost to War, marks Moseley’s great contribution to science and reveals the impact of his death on the international scientific community and its relationship with government and the armed forces.

‘Dear Harry…’ tells the moving and personal story of the life and legacy of Henry ‘Harry’ Moseley – son, scientist, and soldier.

Suitable for

  • Any age


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.

Local Connections, Global Conflict

  • 10 October 2015 10am-3pm

Are you interested in learning more about the First World War, from the Oxfordshire community through to the international Gallipoli campaign and beyond?

In this one-day adult learning workshop inspired by our ‘Dear Harry’ exhibition,
a selection of speakers will provide an engaging and accessible introduction to
World War One history.

Incorporating academic and museum materials as well as the experiences of the
UnderConstruction Theatre playwrights who turned archive material and World War One reminiscences into a fascinating play “While They’re Away”, we will provide an interactive and affordable exploration of the local and global impact of the First World War.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


£15 (lunch provided)


Henry Moseley

Too Valuable to Die?

  • 13 October 2015 6-7:30pm

Silke Ackermann (Director, Museum of the History
of Science), Liz Bruton (Co-curator, “Dear Harry”…
Henry Moseley: A Scientist Lost to War) and Nigel
Biggar (Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral
Theology, University of Oxford) will debate the
ethics of scientists going to war in response to
the current Museum of the History of Science
exhibition exploring the life and legacy of talented
English physicist Henry Moseley. The exhibition
will be open at the event.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


Shifting Shapes and Shadows

  • 29 October 2015 1-4pm

Make 3D structures inspired by objects from the Museum and contribute to a magical animated montage of shadow drawings. Drop-in suitable for all.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Eyeballs and Other Things

  • 7 November 2015 12-4pm

Dissection of eyeballs and some curious
visual experiments will help you
understand what it is to see.
Drop-in suitable for age 9 upwards

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Periodic Table of Elements Day

  • 14 November 2015 12-5pm

The periodic table brings order to information about the chemical elements and helps scientists understand the world around us. At this free event find out more about the periodic table, see handson exciting demonstrations of elemental science, and print your periodic element to make up a truly unique periodic table of elements!

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Light Fantastic

  • 20 November 2015 6-9pm

Celebrating the Oxford Christmas Light Festival parade finale in Broad Street, our late-night opening offers music, activities and special tours all themed around the pure and
mysterious energy that is light!

Suitable for

  • Any age

Shining a Light on World War One

  • 21 — 22 November 2015 12-4pm

Come to our museum for World War One arts and crafts activities, hands-on activities related to battlefield communications in WW1 including telegraphy, radio communication, signals and semaphores from the Royal Signals Museum, and replica World War One uniforms and equipment. Suitable for ages 6+

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Lightning Strikes!

  • 5 December 2015 2-4pm

Find out about the story of electricity
and Benjamin Franklin’s life-saving
invention. Hands-on electrostatic
experiments and demonstrations!
Suitable for children aged 7 upwards.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Museum of the History of Science
Broad Street




01865 277280


01865 277288

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.