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
Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
A beaded necklace, titled Engineered Antibody, based on an antibody purified from the blood of an HIV-positive patient. Made up of 452 hand-made beads, it both represents and physically contains the actual 21 amino acids of the unnatural engineered antibody in their precise order and folded into the exact protein structure.The beads are then attached to textiles that have been dyed using Coomassie Brilliant Blue. The form of the embroidered calico is based on the diagram of the antibody structure.

Anna Dumitriu: BioArt and Bacteria

  • 28 September 2017 — 3 June 2018 *on now

BioArt and Bacteria is a contemporary art exhibition by internationally renowned artist Anna Dumitriu which explores our relationship with the microbial world, antibiotics and technology.

Bacteria lie at the centre of Dumitriu’s ground-breaking work, which combines traditional artistic media with contemporary science to produce artwork that is not only about bacteria but actually fused with them.

The exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science plots an artistic journey from the sanatorium movement to the arrival of antibiotics, as well as exploring newer innovations in science such as whole genome sequencing, the microbiome, and the field of synthetic biology.

Suitable for

  • 16-17
  • 14-15
  • 18+




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.
Ex Voto by Anna Dumitriu, in collaboration with Dr Nicola Fawcett and Professor Maggie Smith

In Conversation: Anna Dumitriu and Nicola Fawcett

  • 1 March 2018 From 6pm

BioArtist Anna Dumitriu and scientist Dr Nicola Fawcett (Nuffield Department of Medicine) discuss their collaboration and how it highlights the impact of infectious diseases and antibiotics on our lives.

Part of the special exhibition Anna Dumitriu: BioArt and Bacteria

Suitable for

  • 18+


Silhouette of Caroline Herschel

Women in Science

  • 10 March 2018 2-4pm

Find out more about women scientists from the past, from Caroline Herschel - who discovered several comets - to Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, who deciphered the structure of insulin.
For International Woman's Day and Votes for Women 1918-2018.
Drop-in, all ages.

Suitable for

  • 5-6
  • 7-10
  • 11-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18+


Model of a human brain held in someone's hand.

Art, Illusions and the Visual Brain

  • 15 March 2018 6-7pm

Professor Christopher Kennard (Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences) has spent a lifetime studying the visual system. In this talk he reveals how easily it can play tricks with our mind.

For Brain Awareness Week 2018.

Tickets will be available from Thursday 1 February.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17
  • Any age


A petri dish filled with green liquid.

Bugs and BioArt

  • 17 March 2018 12-4pm

Join us for a medically inspired celebration of bacteria and BioArt with talks, hands-on activities and more. Discover how art and science interact, the story of penicillin and the miracle of antibiotics. Meet artists and scientists at the cutting edge of medical research.

Suitable for

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