Thousands pour through doors as Oxford University Museum of Natural History re-opens

By Richard Moss | 17 February 2014

Gothic arches and fascinating Victorian cases are once again welcoming visitors to one of the UK's best natural history museums at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History

a photo of the interior of a museum with two large dinosaur casts
© Oxford University
Thousands of visitors poured through the doors of Oxford University Museum of Natural History this weekend after the popular repository of everything from dodos to dinosaurs revealed its newly restored glass tiered roof.

A major 14-month, £2 million restoration project has seen the impressive neo-Gothic architecture of the Victorian building benefit from freshly-cleaned glass roof tiles, specially commissioned replacements and a brand new lighting system that has been installed throughout the court.

The restoration period also allowed staff to complete successful conservation work on a number of valuable specimens including its whale skeletons, which have been lowered from their position above the court, treated for the first time in over 100 years, and raised again in a new configuration.

Opening their doors at 7am, the museum welcomed more than 5,000 people who were treated to a dawn-till-dusk programme of events with live bands, live bugs, and spotlight specimens for visitors to discover.

The Museum’s Director Professor Paul Smith described the period of being closed to the public as “a long, dark year”.

“Although the closure has been a great opportunity to experiment with different ways of taking our specimens to the public,” he added. “It is very nice to see the doors opened again… and to have thousands of visitors filling the space once more – without them having to move around buckets to collect rainwater.”

First opened in 1860, the museum houses Oxford University’s zoological and geological collection of seven million specimens, including the most complete remains of a dodo in the world and the collections of Thomas Bell, William Burchell, and Charles Darwin.

The venue was also the site of the famous 1860 Huxley-Wilberforce debate on Darwin’s then recently-published theories of evolution by natural selection.

During the coming weeks the museum will host a number of high profile events and talks, including a week-long festival, Reactions, across the university museums exploring science and the arts between March 15 and 23.

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