Friday, 15 June 2012

The Ashmolean

Another visit delayed by a sprained ankle. Photography within the museum is allowed, but I wanted to be able to use a tripod and so I needed to get permission, which was requested of and granted by Declan McCarthy, Commercial Manager.

To portray this venerable institution in a few photographs would be a difficult task, I made an earlier foray into this famous museum before - see here and an earlier write up introducing the project here. I had taken the outside shot before, but I felt I needed to portray the entrance in a different way from the standard and so found this wide angle shot to include the grandeur as well as the name plate to depict the museum in form and function.The reverse angle shot showing the entrance looking out (at the Randolph Hotel, another landmark building in Oxford) shows the glass revolving door and it's reflection in the entrance hall's display. The overall feeling in the museum is of large light areas interposed with quiet viewing areas, that hold the artefacts, and which are lit with subdued lighting creating an atmosphere of venerance, which I think is in keeping with a museum.

On the top floor is a restaurant and cafe which has an open veranda on good days. From a photographic perspective there is little to tie this to the Ashmolean. I've included two shots, the first has an interchange between waitress and customer which works on a personal level. However the inclusion, in the second shot, of a menu card situates the eatery, although not as good from people and place perspective.

I have focussed here, with the next half a dozen or so shots on access, looking at the museum from a human perspective. The atrium, corridors, stairs and elevators are all light and airy. The walls are all painted a "near" white and the longer corridors usually have objects d'arts to consider. There is a considerable use of glass, creating a greater sense of space and adding to the general "lightness" in the building.

In all of these "access" shots I have tried to include people, though it needs to be said that I have purposely used their movement by slowing the shutter speed, or I have the people as indicators of scale and I have them integrated into the architecture. There are a couple of elevators, which have strong elements of design in them, again utilising glass and, seemingly, integral to the architecture. There are several shots where the lens aberrations have distorted the view, in some I have moved to correct them to some extent - others I have left, it will not be difficult to see which is which.

Popular with school visits and with tourist trips (the museum is very close to where the tour coaches park to disgorge their contents on a daily basis), again I have deliberately included the movement of the visitors in the frame, some stopping and looking at the pieces, some in continual transit through the museum. The "pillared" hallway is to the left of the entrance to the museum and contains classical busts and statuary on permanent display.

The use of columns in the building emphasises the connections to the classics providing the base of the origins of the University collection. There is a current set of statues created as part of a project which encourages children to engage with the arts and with history.

These shots give an impression of the scale and veneration that the museum have afforded the artefacts under their charge. Visitors have space to look and consider the exhibits in a set of halls that stem from the early 17th century. 


  1. Interesting John and I like the methods you're using to show traces of people.

  2. Thanks Catherine. I'm planning to start pulling the assignment together soon - I'm also hoping that I've got the right pictures and can make a better go at it this time!