The Ashmolean Museum is the one of the oldest museum in the world, the first university museum. Its first collections were donated in 1677. Over the years it’s grown and moved a numerous times. A couple of years ago the museum buildings, in the centre of Oxford, underwent major work, the results are architecturally stunning.
We are so lucky to live near the Ashmolean and get a chance to visit it often. Yet we still don’t go often enough.
Last Saturday was a bit of a washout day. We were busy with booked activities in the morning and then struggled to get motivated to go out anywhere in the afternoon. Our friends dragged us into town thankfully.
We decided to head to the Ashmolean.
It was almost 4:30pm by the time we got there. We headed to the family activity trolley, tucked away behind some columns near the entrance, to choose a themed trail to do with the children. A kind gentleman, working at the information desk, informed us that the museum would close in half an hour, but if we didn’t get to the end of our trail we should still seek him out, as he’d still give the children a certificate for doing the trail.
There were 4 or 5 different trails to choose from. Our little crew chose the Dog Detectives. A trail to find dogs, man’s faithful friend, portrayed through the centuries in sculptures, paintings and historic artifacts.
Although the trail’s 5 things to find were spread across 3 floors, the rooms we needed on each floor were quite close to each other and near a lift.
We raced to the Egyptian room to find a “dog” (black Jackal, a wild dog) sitting on a sarcophagi, then onto Ancient Greece to seek out a jug shaped as a dog’s head.
One floor up our challenge was to spot a little dog portrayed with a Mughal Emperor, then onto Italian Renaissance paintings as our next challenge was to find a young boy called Tobias and gaurdian angel, Raphael. Hidden by their feet was a little white dog. Our quiz asked us what we thought the dog might be thinking of. Angelina drew a bone.
Finally, on the second floor, we needed to count all the dogs in a room of Dutch paintings and sketch them too.
We actually finished the trail within half an hour and the children were ever so proud of their personalised certificates!
Had we had more time we could’ve easily spent 5 times the time on the dog hunt and talked about each period, each room a bit more with the children, told them stories about the ages we saw. The Dog Detective card gave prompts to talk about things too.
What the visit did prove, however, is that it’s worth popping into a museum even for 30 minutes. It leaves an impression on the children, one of excitement and enchantment, one where they want to come back and learn more.
Thank you Ashmolean for creating the exciting trails for children and a HUGE thank you to all UK tax payers for making the museums free to access! We are so privileged to have these amazing facilities free at point of access.