And we’re back!


Knights of Mentis

Just a very quick post to say that today has been amazing. Thanks very much to all our visitors – it has been wonderful to have so many people back in the court – and also to our musical entertainers, The Alternotives and The Knights of Mentis who provided a real party atmosphere.

Time for a beer and rest. If you didn’t make it today, then hopefully see you soon.

By the light of the Moon

White rabbit

We recently brought you the breaking news that the animals on our Goes to Town trail had escaped from their cases and were planning to return here to reopen the Museum on Saturday 15 February.

We can now reveal that these creatures have been sighted, skulking by the light of the Moon, and making their final preparations for this reopening party. It seems that the Museum will be Darkened no longer, and most certainly not Dormant.

See you there…

Into the Light

Reopening banner

We have been darkened now for over a year although, as this blog has hopefully shown, far from dormant. But it is almost time to re-emerge into the light. And what a lot of light there will be…

The cause of our closure – and the subject of many posts here – was the restoration of the beautiful glass-tiled roof of the Museum building. More than 8,000 tiles have been individually removed, cleaned and resealed. The result is a luminous canopy above our heads, where the blue sky of a clear day complements the golden ironwork of the architecture.

Visitors to the Pitt Rivers Museum can already get a good look at the roof as they pass through our Museum on their way, but we are now looking forward to welcoming back our own visitors. And the date is set: Saturday 15th February 2014, when we will be open from dawn till dusk (that’s 7am until 5pm). We’ll have a brand new café which will be serving breakfast from daybreak and food throughout the day. More news on that soon.

As well as the welcome return of lots of favourite exhibits, there will be plenty going on throughout the day with talks, live music, star specimens, bug handling and more.

But as we build towards reopening we are also moving into the twilight days of this here blog. Darkened not dormant will become the very thing it claims it is not – dormant and inactive. Of course, it is not the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning as we will be launching a new Museum blog that will continue to report all the comings and goings from the various collections and departments in the building.

For now though: Saturday 15th February, dusk till dawn. Put the date in your diaries and spread the word. See you there…

Scott Billings, Communications coordinator

Reading room

Library Reading Room

This past year may have been darkened for our court displays, but we have been working hard to make sure the Library and Archives start to emerge from their dusty shelves and cupboards to see the light of day (figuratively speaking of course: too much light is very bad for books and archives!).

With generous funding from Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, there have been two large-scale digitisation projects underway to make two important collections available online: the maps of William Smith, dubbed the ‘Father of English Geology’, and the Flying Icons project to make freely-available scans of the Jones’ Icones, a manuscript of Lepidoptera paintings by William Jones of Chelsea.


A sneak peak at our new online archive catalogue.

These projects have allowed us to develop an online catalogue for the Archive Collections, making access simpler and more widely available than ever. Watch this space to find out about the catalogue’s launch early in 2014.

There is also work underway to upgrade the facilities in our Reading Room, which you can see in the photograph at the top. We’ll have more computer workstations and more work space for readers.

The Library and Archive are open to anyone with a research interest in our collections, and we’re proud to be one of the few Oxford University Libraries with such an open policy.

We’re planning to improve our services during 2014 too and we’d really like a bit of help from you. We have set up this quick survey and would very much appreciate any info people are able to provide.

To visit our Library and Archive Collections, you can make an appointment at, or follow us on Twitter @morethanadodo to find out about tours and workshops coming up in the New Year.

Kate Santry, Head of Archival Collections

The Whales’ Tale

Once in a Whale


This week, the ‘whale aisle’ was invaded by a hoard of riggers and scaffolders, constructing a safe and simple means to transfer the specimens into their new positions in the gallery.


Not moving too far, the specimens are now in size order and are staggered, taking advantage of the vast roof space. The Northern Bottlenose Whale is now at the highest level (7 meters up!) and the Dolphin at the lowest. This new positioning meant transporting the Orca, Beluga and Dolphin out of the aisle on wheels, and then returning them to their new locations, ready to be hoisted.



As a parting gift we made each specimen an engraved acrylic sign. This included updated taxonomic information and a contemporary, larger font to keep with the museum’s new visual identity. To further engage visitors, we provided all information on both sides of the panel. We also used this opportunity to take…

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Natural Histories: On Tour


In May this year we opened Natural Histories, our collaborative exhibition with the Museum  of the History of Science on Oxford’s Broad Street, who hosted the displays. As we wrote at the time, it was a great opportunity to put on view some lovely and important specimens while we were closed. It also linked nicely with the long history of the museums in Oxford, beginning as far back as 1683.

Lost and FoundIt was a lot of hard work pulling together all the material, themes, and displays for Natural Histories so we were particularly pleased when Banbury Museum, one of the University museums’ development partners, approached us asking if the exhibition might tour there…

And so it has. It’s a short, one-stop tour admittedly, but with a bit of jiggling and reconfiguration here and there, the whole Natural Histories show is now open to the public in Banbury.

Banbury MuseumSo if you missed it at the Museum of the History of Science, head over to Banbury Museum by 22 February 2014 and have a look.

There’s plenty to see, including the jawbone of the Oxfordshire Megalosaurus, the world’s first scientifically-described dinosaur; creatures collected by Charles Darwin; and a meteorite the age of the Earth itself. With touchable specimens too (of course), Natural Histories explores some big themes and ideas that have shaped our understanding of the natural world.

But as the finished exhibition is now on display for all to see, here instead are a few behind-the-scenes shots of the late night measuring, painting, fixing and adjusting that were needed to get everything ready for opening day last Saturday. Thanks very much to everyone who mucked in and helped out.


Making a few adjustments…

An almost-closed case

Almost ready for closure


Finding the spot

Glass cleaner at the ready

Glass cleaner at the ready


Scott Billings – Communications coordinator