Oxford's Hidden Histories

Oxford's Hidden Histories: The Plans So Far...

We apologise for the radio silence on the Oxford’s Hidden Histories project, however this is due to the Museum Team working really hard to develop the Museum Oxford deserves.

A view of the new designs for the first gallery in the museum


Architects Purcell and designers Simon Leach Design have been working closely with the Museum Team to create plans for a new space. As the images show, the space will be stripped back to the original 19th Century build with original features highlighted rather than hidden. Access in a Grade II* listed building is never easy, however the designs include two platform lifts to combat the changes in level. Another key feature is the knocking down of part of a wall between the current Explore Oxford galleries and the Old Museum. A glass arch will be installed, giving visitors a great view over the entirety of the first Museum gallery.

Another view of the first gallery visitors will encounter in the new museum


Throughout the process, the content and layout for the exhibitions has been considered with flexibility in mind. We want to ensure that we always tell the big stories about Oxford’s history, however we need to be able to update and change these in what is still a limited (albeit far larger) space. The clever design for cases and open displays will allow us to do that, co-curating the displays with the people of Oxford.

A view of the second gallery in the new museum designs


New exhibitions exploring our new themes – Every Community Leaves Its Mark, Change and Continuity and Civic Pride and the Town Hall – will give visitors an understanding of Oxford’s development whilst making stories relevant to the people of the city. For instance, with display of a pub sign for the ‘Allied Arms’ we ask visitors about pubs, names and change - the reason for the ‘Allied Arms’ being renamed during the Great War was that it was called the ‘King of Prussia’.

Another view of the second gallery visitors will encounter at the new museum


The basement space will be dedicated to education and communities. Our Museum Makers space will be dominated by a bespoke storage case for our handling and reminiscence collections. Visitors will be able to handle some of these, but also take inspiration and maybe create something that can go directly into the Museum galleries. We will show processes for accessioning items, or collecting oral histories, showing that we are actively collecting for the city. A new platform lift will mean that all can access the basement space.

We hope that you are as excited about these plans as we are. Oxford’s Hidden Histories is still a work in progress, with your feedback and views guiding us to this point. We are looking forward to sharing more of our plans with you soon.