Oxford: 19th February 2016
When I entered the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, one of my first thoughts was of the half-forgotten 70s film One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing. For, like the Natural History Museum in London, the first thing you see is a gigantic dinosaur skeleton.
But, I’d suggest disregarding the exhibits for a moment, and taking a closer look at the architecture of this magnificent building. Although that’s difficult to do; as you look at the interesting and intriguing roof structure, your gaze is immediately drawn to the skeletons of different kinds of whales hanging from it.
At first glance, the layout seems somewhat haphazard, but you’ll soon work out that the exhibits are roughly sequenced, from early lifeforms like ammonites and trilobites right through to the strange upright ape that eventually took over the planet.
The Museum was founded in 1860, and has been a centre of world-leading research and scientific discussion ever since. There’s a pillar outside the building, commemorating the Great Debate at the newly-opened Museum, between Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, concerning Charles Darwin’s famous and controversial book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Churchman versus scientist! And, that’s a debate that’s still going on in some places.
There are some items, mainly crustaceans (crabs, etc) the he collected on the famous voyage of the Beagle, and sent to one Thomas Bell, from whom the Museum acquired them in 1862.
Normally, I’d prefer to see the animal kingdom on the hoof, and in the wild … but I still thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Museum. And, you don’t have to be a committed naturalist to enjoy it. The kids, especially, will love it.