Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Discovering the Ancient Worlds at the Ashmolean

You cannot possibly explore the Ashmolean Museum in one day, you can only get some insights and glimpses. Years ago, when we used to live in Oxford, I worked in a University department just a couple of blocks away from the museum, and loved popping in the museum for a quick visit very often. My current life is like a rapid torrent these days, I just about manage to keep afloat, and haven't had a chance to revisit my old haunts for several years. What, with Sasha's autism and dislike of crowded spaces, and Eddie being a bit too young to appreciate the glories of the Ashmolean, I kept postponing the trip. But as my older niece Sasha (don't get confused with our two Sashas) is very interested in the ancient Egypt, we decided to go to the museum together and split afterwards, if my older son gets too agitated.

Marvellous faces at the Ashmolean

I was as excited to see my beloved Ashmolean as my niece, who visited it over four years ago. We were a group of six, three kids and three adults, and together we were discovering and re-discovering the ancient worlds and cultures.
The Ashmolean is the most visited museum in the UK outside London. Its ancient Egyptian collection is spectacular.

The Egyptian collections with mummies were the highlight of our latest visit. Some of the objects on display have been part of the collection since the opening of the museum in 1683.
Recently there has been a lot of discussions on the ethics of displaying mummies and other human remains in the museums. Is it a sacrilege or simply science? The mummies in the Ashmolean come with the fascinating stories behind each of them.

There is a mummy of a 2-year-old boy who died of pneumonia. His mummy is undisturbed and is dispayed next to the modern art work by Angela Palmer, who was so moved by the story of the little boy who died 2000 years ago, that she visited the site where he was found in Hawara, and brought back a handful of the local sand to remind him of his home. Touching and bizarre at the same time.

Now that I had a quick visit, I want to go back on my own. Maybe once Eddie is settled in school (he starts school in a couple of weeks), I might be able to go to Oxford on my own and study the collections at my own pace.

My son Sasha was actually quite curious about the artefacts (well, up to a certain point, when the crowds got too much for his peace of mind, and he got quite stressed, then we said good bye to my niece and Mum. They went to the exhibition Discovering Tutankhamun, and we left the museum).

For some reason Eddie was fascinated by a double portrait of a Roman doctor Claudius Agathenus and his wife Myrtele. He looked at them and asked me: "Mummy, why is she so grumpy?" A good question, my darling, but I don't know. They look a bit like a mismatched couple, she clearly is much older and quite masculine in appearance.

Eddie liked the sculptures the most, and I will take him along another time. My clever niece Sasha was most studious, and even bought a heavy book on ancient Egypt in the museum shop.

I love the museum shop, and could be happily browsing there for hours.

It is a marvellous place to visit with children, and the admission is free.
How do you keep your kids entertained in summer?


  1. Oh wow I had not heard of this museum before but it looks great - so much to see and learn. Thanks so much for sharing

    Laura x

  2. I'm so glad I found your blog! I'm going to Oxford in a few weeks and I love museums so I am going to visit. I love Ancient Egyptian pieces and I will be heading there first. Thank you I hadn't heard of this museum before.
    Sisley x