Exploring Oxford’s Museum of Natural History

Posted by Sophie Bebb on

University of Oxford Museum of Natural History

Spoiler alert: It’s much “More than a Dodo”

Dodo museum natural history Oxford

Wild and wonderful things await as soon as you walk through the large wooden doors of the Museum of Natural History in Oxford. The displays in the main court are just a tiny taster of the collections as a whole. The Museum has over seven million historical and modern specimens encompassing the natural world. They include five million insects; over half a million fossils, rocks and minerals; and over 250,000 zoological specimens. 

Architecture photography Oxford Museum Natural History
It’s hard not to feel a great sense of wanderlust when you walk amongst the towering cloisters. The Museum’s Victorian neo-Gothic architecture was strongly influenced by the ideas of 19th-century art critic John Ruskin. The beautiful details are enough to make your head spin. It’s breathtaking glass roof, supported by cast iron pillars wrapped in decorative iron flowers and leaves serve as a true harmony between science and art.

Museum natural History Oxford

The museum has provided inspiration for many authors and artists over the years including Lewis Carroll and Philip Pullman. Throughout the halls there are scattered chairs and benches and on a quiet day you will often see artists or students with a book in hand or a sketch pad soaking up the atmosphere that has inspired so many. As home to an ever-evolving series of exhibitions and wild collections, it seems fitting that this was once the location for one of the greatest debates in history. Darwin's Theory of Evolution vs Biblical Creation. Which took place in June 1860 between biologist Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford.

Roof detail Oxford University Museum natural History

The magnificent collections of prehistoric species never fail to spark the imagination of children and adults alike. But something special about OUMNH, is how it makes you look at our modern natural world. Suspended from the ceiling is a captivating display of skeletons, including a killer whale, a beluga whale and a bottlenose dolphin. And a parade of almost the entire animal kingdom is one of the most diverse and photogenic exhibits. Not forgetting the wonderful Entomology collections on the second floor, you will leave with a new found appreciation of the delicate beauty of all insect groups, from flies to fleas, butterflies, beetles and bees.

Swifts flying around Oxford University Museum of Natural History

From May till September each year a colony of swifts nest in the Museum tower. The nest boxes are well hidden, so cameras have been installed, showing the chicks progress via a live stream online and to a display near the main entrance. The Museum is also home to a hive of beautiful honey bees. The hand-built beehive on the second floor shows them hard at work throughout spring and summer months.

Dinosaur foot prints Oxford University Museum of natural History

Something that brings the entire experience far closer to home is the Megalosaurus bucklandii. On display with Megalosaurus are three species of dinosaur discovered in Oxfordshire. And if you look across the green lawn at the front of the Museum, there are a sequence of footprints made up of casts that were discovered at Ardley Quarry, Oxfordshire in 1997.

B&W dinosaur print Oxford University Museum natural History

With a changing series of exhibitions running throughout the year. There is always something new to learn about the world's wonderful Natural History. Be sure to add this to your bucket list of places to visit in Oxford and if you are looking for a piece of art for your home, workplace or wardrobe(!) Head over to our art  collections pages to find our unique pieces featuring famous buildings and museums of Oxford.

Modern art print Oxford Museum Natural History

 We are so excited that this stunning piece of art was awarded FIRST place, in the professional artist section, of the Museum of Natural History's "Ruskin 200" art competition 2019! 


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