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as written for the University Archives, see here for PDF:

The Ashmolean Museum was situated on Broad Street from 1683 to 1894. When AJ Evans became Keeper in 1884 the Museum building was overcrowded and unsuitable for the purpose of exhibiting the many collections bequeathed to the University. Until the construction of the University Museum and the Pitt-Rivers Museum, in 1860 and 1883 respectively, all ethnographical and biological collections had been deposited in either the Bodleian Library or the Ashmolean, as well as many collections of artistic or archaeological importance.

In a public lecture, given on 20 November 1884, Evans expressed his aim to make the Ashmolean a museum of "greater archaeological than anthropological interest". He outlined his plans to carry out a series of exchanges with the University Museum, the Bodleian, the Taylor Galleries and the Pitt-Rivers in order to reunite the Ashmolean’s core collections. He also expressed the Ashmolean’s need for larger premises.

In 1884 the Ashmolean was administratively very compact. There were no independent departments and only a small library. The whole was overseen by the Keeper, who had "the care of the Collections ... under the direction of the Visitors" (Statutes 1884).

Following C.D.E. Fortnum’s endowment of £10,000, the Ashmolean was able to move into an extension built onto the University Galleries on Beaumont Street. The supervision and direction of the building, fitting and furnishing of the extension was carried out by a Delegacy appointed by Fortnum (see AM 72-73) and the move was completed in November 1894. The Visitors of the Museum and the Curators of the University Galleries, consolidated by decree of Convocation into a ‘joint board’, governed the two institutions from June 1894 to January 1896. Under a new Statute, which came into effect in January 1896, an enlarged single board of Visitors was appointed for both the Ashmolean and the University Galleries, although the two institutions remained independent until 1908.

One of the conditions set by Fortnum when making his endowment was that the Ashmolean should eventually absorb the University Galleries and not the other way about. Until such time the Keeper of the Galleries was to enjoy equivalent status to the Keeper of the Ashmolean (WP/2/4).

In 1908 the Statute was revised once more to allow for the merger of the Ashmolean and the University Galleries. Three departments were granted recognition by the new Statute: the Antiquarium (soon known as the Department of Antiquities); the Department of Fine Art, which included most of the University Galleries collection; and the Department of Classical Archaeology and Art, which incorporated the Cast Gallery. From 1908 the Museum was known as the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology.

The administrative framework expanded at this time, a fact reflected by the records. The Keeper and Visitors were responsible for the general management of the Museum, recruitment of attendants and maintenance of the fabric. All of these matters were financed by the ‘Administration Account’.

Each department was run by a Keeper, also appointed by the Visitors (the Department of Classical Archaeology was run by the Lincoln Professor of Classical Archaeology) and each had control of their own finances. Annual account statements had to be submitted to the Visitors who in their turn presented them to Convocation with the Annual Report. All new departments formed assumed the same degree of financial and administrative independence.

The following departments were formed after 1908.
Heberden Coin Room
As a result of the Heberden bequest made in 1922, the Ashmolean was able to establish the Coin Room as a sub-department of the Department of Antiquities. It was granted independent status by Statute in 1961.

Griffith Institute of Egyptological and Near Eastern Archaeological Research
Professor FL Griffith’s collection and library was transferred to the Ashmolean by his widow in 1939 and granted independent status by Statute.

The Department of Eastern Art and the Department of Western Art
Eastern Art was originally a part of the Department of Fine Art. All artefacts in this category were transferred to the Indian Institute in 1948 where they formed a sub-department of Eastern Art. In 1962 the department returned to the Ashmolean building along with a large part of the Indian Institute’s collection of artefacts. In the previous year, the Department of Fine Art had been divided by Statute to form two departments: the Department of Eastern Art and the Department of Western Art.

The Ashmolean Library
The Ashmolean Library was not granted statutory independence until 1968. By 1968 it included the following libraries: the Haverfield Library, the libraries of Classical, Medieval and European Archaeology, the Griffith Library, the Margouliouth Library and the Fine Art Library.

1870-84 J.H. Parker

1884-1908 A.J. (later, Sir Arthur) Evans

1908-27 D.G. Hogarth

1928-45 E.T. Leeds

1945-62 K.T. Parker

1962-72 R.W. Hamilton

1973-85 D.T. (later, Sir David) Piper

1985-97 Sir Christopher J. White

1997-8 Dr P.R.S. Moorey (Acting Director)

1998- Dr Christopher P.H. Brown

The majority of the records listed here were transferred from the Ashmolean Library in 1986, 1998 (AM 63/3-5 and AM 68-69) and 2002 (AM 70-73). The Visitors papers (AM 74) were transferred from the Director’s office in 2005 and AM 75 was transferred from the Department of Antiquities in 2006. Items AM 62/1-2 and AM 76-7 were originally found with the records of the University Museum, but were transferred in Jan 2008. The Museum retains many of its records, including most of those of the original Ashmolean Museum in Broad Street; any items dated before 1894 in this list relate to the original Museum.

R.F. Ovenell, The Ashmolean Museum 1683-1894 (1986)
Arthur MacGregor, The Ashmolean Museum: a brief history (2001)
A.G. MacGregor, ‘The Ashmolean Museum’ in The History of the University of Oxford, vol VI, nineteenth-century Oxford, Part 1 edited by M.G. Brock and M.C. Curthoys (1997)
Christopher White, ‘Museums and Art Galleries’ in The History of the University of Oxford, vol VIII, the twentieth century edited by Brian Harrison (1994)
Report of the Committee on the Ashmolean [The Brunt Report] Supplement to the Oxford University Gazette, volume xcviii, November 1967.

[compiled 1995 revised 2003 revised 2010]




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