The Oxford University Museum of Natural History

imageWhat to do if you are stranded in Oxford with a couple of hours to spare?
Cinema? Shops? Pub…?

Well Coleshed elected to go to the fantastic Oxford University Museum (OUM).

Firstly it is a fantastic Victorian gothic building (Grade 1 listed, built between 1855-1860). It has dinosaur footprints across the lawn in front of the building and an imposing tower; then, things get even better!  When you get inside, the atrium opens out into a fabulous hall with a vaulted glass roof held up by intricate iron columns.


Secondly it is full of skeletons!

Dinosaurs, whales, elephants and the famous Oxford dodo.

Below the foot of Tyrannosaurus rex (T Rex is on the right – for the avoidance of doubt!)


Skeleton of Hyperoodon ampullatus (Northern Bottle-Nosed Whale)


and skeletons from a whole range of more familiar animals from a pig to a giraffe!


The there is point three: Whilst lots of visitors focus on just the big glamorous exhibits, closer inspection reveals even more delights:

Here is the skeleton of a frog


and a 19th Century French fantasy …. a little aristocratic cherub riding a crayfish!


there are a couple of huge slabs of rock containing these beautiful fossil trilobites (each is bigger than your hand). These are 450 million years old! How cool is that!


and then a fascinating piece of ‘modern’ rock, collected on the British coast, which has been burrowed into by rock boring molluscs called Piddocks (Pholas sp.). Who said Piddocks are boring!


Then there is the fourth brilliant reason to visit OUM:

It is of course the incredible Pitt Rivers museum located within the OUM at the back! (which thankfully has survived some sensitive improvements over recent years). This place is a feast of anthropology! A veritable treasure trove of wierd stuff. Everyone goes there to see the shrunken (human) heads or Japanese Samurai costumes, however closer inspection reveals all sorts of strange things: a native American Chief’s head dress containing the feathers of Bald Eagles ; a ceremonial necklace from India with massive tiger claws in it; a cuttlefish lure made from cowrie shells.

Now you can’t just go and collect Bald Eagle feathers or Tiger claws nowadays – for all the right reasons. But this collection harks back to a time when indigenous peoples treasured these rare and special things – not exploited them. Most of the collections we looked at were made in the 19th century and were donated by various benefactors in the mid 20th century. The tiny handwritten labels are works of art in themselves.


All this wonderful stuff is quite exhausting… which brings us nicely to the fifth and final reason (if you needed one) to plan a visit yourself.

oh yes! number five: CAKE.

Fab cake. Nice cafe, run by award winning Mortons. Fresh sarnies and samosas.




This was a Coleshed production.

Written without the express permission of OUM.

Not sponsored or paid for in any way. Simply enthusiastic about such a fab place.

So watch out for Part 2: Bugs and Beasties







6 thoughts on “The Oxford University Museum of Natural History

  1. Lovely! Now I strongly recommend that you read Trilobite! Eye-Witness to Evolution by Richard Fortey; fab author, fab speaker See him on youtube or iplayer. The museum’s case of individual trilobites has some Moroccan trilobites with strange appendages like Neptune’s tridents sticking out forwards from their heads – function unknown.

    1. Sounds very interesting. Have read Spirals In Time which also deals with Trilobites in evolution. May need to try your recommendation. Saw the 3 types of Trilobite amazing details.

  2. I’ve been working in this wonderful city for 12 years and driven past the museum more time than I care to remember but never stopped to visit. Thank you for the inspiration a non working day out in Oxford is called for!

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