Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Saturday, 7 November 2009

Ashmolean Museum opens to public


Inside the new-look Ashmolean

The UK's oldest public museum has reopened after a £61m redevelopment.

The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, in Oxford, which first opened in the 17th Century, was renovated to double the gallery space.

The new building, designed by architect Rick Mather, replaces all but the Grade I-listed Cockerell building.

About 3,000 people visited the museum in the first two hours of it reopening. It features the lamp carried by Guy Fawkes during the Gunpowder Plot,

The first official visitors to enter the new-look building were a couple from Montreal, Canada, who had heard about the reopening in the International Herald Tribune.

The museum has extended its opening hours for the day until 2200 GMT.

Aficionado of antiquities

The renovation features 39 new galleries, including four temporary exhibition galleries, a new education centre, conservation studios and a rooftop restaurant.

It has been funded with a £15m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Ashmolean
The Ashmolean redevelopment cost £61m

Nicholas Barber, chairman of the Ashmolean, said: "Renowned for our collections, the Ashmolean has always held a strong position on the cultural map.

"But now, with a magnificent new building and inspiring displays, the museum has been transformed into one of the world's great cultural jewels."

The museum is named after Elias Ashmole, an aficionado of antiquities who studied at the University of Oxford while posted to the military.

Museum director Christopher Brown said: "From the outset, our ambition has been to create not just an improved and expanded version of Britain's oldest public museum, but something significantly different in kind: A new way of showcasing the Ashmolean's remarkable collections, for the benefit of the widest possible audience."

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