The Museum of Natural History has played an important role in Oxford's life since the mid-1800s. It was originally founded in order to collect all the university's burgeoning science departments under one roof. Diverse disciplines, such as astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry, geology, and medicine shared the building until they eventually outgrew the space. During its time as a centre for scientific research, many notable events happened in the building, such as the 1860 evolution debate, which included many of the most famous scientists of the age. The building now houses the university's zoological and geological collections.
Many of the collections represent the great scientific advances, natural interest, and exploration of the 1800s. Many fossils and skeletons are on display in the museum, as well as the collection of Charles Darwin (who was an avid beetle collector) and the most complete remains of the Dodo in the world. The skeletons displayed all over the museum, even hanging from the ceiling, are the first thing to catch your eye when entering. It gives the impression of a space overflowing with artefacts, which is not far from the truth, as there are over 375,000 fossil specimens and around 30,000 mineral specimens.
The 'Duck-billed dinosaur'. Photo by Erin Connelly
Not everything in this museum is hidden under glass or behind 'don't touch' signs. For young visitors, there are hands-on exhibits where dinosaur bones and other fossils can be handled. Upstairs there is a cafe where you can enjoy coffee overlooking the expanse of the museum.
The museum contains some of the rarest and finest collections of natural history in the world. It's difficult to experience all the museum has to offer in one visit, but it is a must-see for all interested in the history of science.