Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Ashmolean Museum

Yesterday, Saturday January 9th, was AWESOME! The cold day dawned sunny but brisk. I ventured from my flat to explore Oxford. My tutorials don't start until tomorrow, so I have just a few days to wonder the city unhindered.

My plan for the day was to find as many local museums as possible. There are a plethora of cultural avenues, including a multitude of "no fee, donations appreciated" museums. I chose to start the day at the Ashmolean, a museum in north Oxford, then work my way south through the city.

The Ashmolean was huge. From the outside it doesn't look that big (as you can see by the picture). Inside though there were four floors. The fourth floor was a roof top restaurant, but the rest of the building was full of artifacts. It began with the earliest civilizations. There were Grecian vases from 600 BCE. I moved on to Italy before the Romans. There was an awesome quote from D.H. Lawrence, "The Etruscans... were the people who occupied the middle of Italy in early Roman days, and whom the Romans, in their usual neighborly fashion, wiped out entirely in order to make room for Rome with a very big R." The Roman Empire had even reached Oxordshire by CE 70. There was beautiful jewlery, pottery, and art on display from this period that made me beam with pride in my Italian heritage.

I continued through the East meets West exhibit where I found an intricatly carved wooden door from the silk road, block printed fabrics from CE 950, and awesome Mongolian riding boots. For those of you who know my love of shoes I can report that replicas of the boots were not to be found in the museum shop. Also in this exhibit were rooms full of pottery. England is very well know for its pottery. I even found a plate that was created in Oxford, sent to China to be manufactured, then returned to England to be sold (the plate dated to 1755). Outsourcing began with the silk road apparently.

I then spent the rest of my time 'oohing' and 'ahhing' over the bountiful displays of paintings at the Ashmolean. I won't bore you with the details of my art explosion. I will say there was an actual Van Gogh on display which I was close enough to breath on. I almost cried with excitment. I should also note that sometimes the best part of a Bristish art museum is the people in it. Brits are very expressive when veiwing art. They talk to each other about the coloring, the landscape, even the subjects of the painting. Unlike American museums, British museums are not quite.

After the museum, where I must admit I lost myself and spent more time than I expected, I continued into City Center where I joined the county library, replaced some items from my lost suitcase, and found town hall. I learned a bit about British culture during my outing. Oxford is very alive town. You never see anyone walking bythemselves. City Center was full of families. I don't think baby sitters exist here because it wouldn't occur to parents to leave there children at home. There is a wonderful vibrancy that I haven't expereinced in the US.

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