British Archaeology at the Ashmolean

About the Project

The British archaeological collections at the Ashmolean Museum are central to the history of antiquarianism and archaeology in Britain. Their nucleus is also of national significance as a scientific resource, and includes material resulting from pioneering work carried out in the Thames Valley under the auspices of the Museum up to the 1960s.

In 2002, a survey showed that, despite their importance, these collections were not easily accessed and documentation was not optimal and that as a consequence a significant proportion of the collection contributed to research well below its full potential. In addition, further study revealed only a low proportion of information concerning the collection was accessible through Historic Environment Records in Oxfordshire and elsewhere in Britain.

The Museum undertook to remedy the situation and was awarded a Resource Enhancement grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a two-year programme of work: “Rationalisation and enhancement of historic British archaeology collections at the Ashmolean Museum” (Project Code AR18365; B/RE/AN7100/APN18365).

The project was designed to both improve collections storage and documentation and to enhance physical and intellectual access to the material by the general public and by researchers alike.

The grant was awarded in 2004 and all of the work should have taken place in 2005 and 2006. However, the project was seriously disrupted by the Ashmolean Redevelopment, and related projects, and in particular the removal of the collections to offsite storage from 2006. With the agreement of the AHRC the project was suspended until the redevelopment work was complete. The project was restarted in September 2011 and was completed to a higher specification than in the original project design in January 2012.

Old Storage

Storage of British collections prior to project

New Storage

New storage facilities