OXFORD.- Highlights of the year-long programme of special events include the first exhibition in the west of the extraordinary 525 million year old Chengjiang fossils from China (17 May – 14 November 2010) a high profile lecture series with speakers including Sir David Attenborough on Birds of Paradise (20 October 2010) and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy on Symmetry (27 October 2010), a one-woman show and exhibition to mark the centenary of Oxford Nobel prize-winner Dorothy Hodgkin (10 May 2010), and a Son et Lumiere and Pitt Rivers Museum Torchlight Trail (28 May 2010). There will be a number of special exhibitions including the Wonderland of Natural History 1860-2010 about the development of the museum’s remarkable building (26 May – 31 December 2010) and a Huxley Wilberforce Debate (11 September 2010).
From the outset the Oxford University Museum of Natural History has played an important role in the development of science and culture. It was in the museum in 1860 that the celebrated debate on Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species took place between the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce and Thomas Henry Huxley. It is also where Nobel Laureate Dorothy Hodgkin worked for many years.
At the core of the museum are internationally important entomological, geological, mineralogical and zoological collections, in all over 5.78 million specimens. They include the earliest surviving British natural history specimens, insects and other animals collected by Charles Darwin, the only surviving remains of the Dodo, the Tsetse Fly collected by David Livingstone, and the first scientifically described remains of dinosaurs. The Museum itself is a Grade 1 listed building, renowned for its spectacular neo-Gothic architecture.
Over the last few years the Oxford University Museum of Natural History has completed a major programme of display renewal which has transformed the way that its collections are presented. To celebrate its anniversary, the museum is pursuing four further major projects that reflect the multiple themes that shape the institution: restoring and enhancing the building's architectural splendour; serving the larger public as a vital resource for education and enjoyment; preserving the Museum's invaluable collections; and carrying forward its active scientific research.
Director of the Museum, Professor Jim Kennedy, who retires this year said: “Our 150th anniversary year comes at a time when the reputation of the Museum and the contribution it makes to the University and city has never been higher. With over half a million visitors in 2009, and tens of thousands of school pupils coming through our doors each year we are one of the most visited places in Oxford.”
Anne Heseltine, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Museum, added: “I fell for the museum at first sight - surely one of the most stunning Victorian Gothic buildings in the UK. You venture inside and your first impressions are enhanced by the interior - the soaring columns and exotic plants. This is a paradise for children with its dinosaurs and stuffed animals.”
Visit the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at : http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/