This week in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology opened in Oxford. It was the world’s first university museum and was named after Elias Ashmole, who in 1677 had given Oxford University what became the museum’s first collection. Construction also began in 1677. The current museum building was finished in 1845.
That first donation from Elias Ashmole ranged from antique coins to zoological specimens. The most noteworthy piece may have been the stuffed body of one of the world’s very last dodos. Unfortunately, by 1755 the dodo’s body was so moth-eaten that only the head and one claw remained. Today, the Ashmolean has more than 110,000 items, including drawings by Michelangelo and Raphael, paintings by Pablo Picasso, and a Stradivarius violin.
Photo: the Ashmolean Museum’s main entrance, taken in 2014 by Lewis Clarke, used with permission under CC BY-SA 2.0