Some big changes
Published: Monday, 29th July 2019
Building a new museum
Building a new Museum of Oxford in the Grade II* listed Town Hall means ushering in big changes. We have highlighted many of the positive changes we are making to the building. These include providing better access with the installation of platform lifts as well as restoring the spaces to much of their 19th century splendour and improving facilities.
With improving the spaces and making them fit for purpose in the 21st century, we have had to make tough decisions. The 1970’s Museum of Oxford had certain quirks which clash with the flexible and accessible Museum we want to create. Some of the exhibits were built into the spaces. Our first priority is always to preserve the objects on display; however exhibitions built into the environment pose real difficulties when building work is required. They cannot remain in the space as they could be damaged.
One such object was the Roman Kiln on the lower ground floor level. This large exhibition, constructed in the space in the 70s was directly in front of a wall that needs considerably building work and attention. With a lack of records and understanding of the composition of the kiln, works were carried out by the city archaeologist to better understand how it was constructed. The results were interesting. The kiln was primarily reconstruction, consisting of concrete, wire mesh and plastic. When being deconstructed, the team working on the kiln skilfully separated those parts that were authentic and those that were not.
Another reason an exhibition may not be included in the future displays is because of changes in best practice. The Museum took the tough decision to not display the human remains of Giles Covington. Displayed as a medical specimen, this exhibition had frequently been the cause of controversy. We have returned this loan as it isn’t right to display human remains in this way.
There are several more instances where decisions have been made that will result in change. But then, the creation of a new Museum was the intended purpose of this project. We are creating a Museum that best represents the people of Oxford, covering a broad range of topics. We are working with communities to develop displays that represent them. The Museum is changing and we believe this change is for the better.