Friday, 6 November 2009

Simon Jenkins on the new Ashmolean Museum

Simon Jenkins, recipient of the History Today Trustees Award for 2008, today writes about Oxford’s revamped and extended Ashmolean Museum in his Guardian column. He describes the Ashmolean, which reopens to the public tomorrow, as ‘the most exciting museum anywhere in Britain’. Peter Furtado, my predecessor as History Today editor and an Oxford resident, will review the new Ashmolean Museum here on Monday.

Jenkins, though full of praise for the Ashmolean, has some reservations about the disjuncture in style between the early Victorian architecture of CR Cockerell and Rick Mather’s new hi-tech galleries, fashionably white. On a more elegiac note, Jenkins concludes:

‘The big museum project must surely be coming to an end, at least in the western
world. The public sector is financially exhausted and private money and fancy
architecture are turning elsewhere – in Boris Johnson's London, to the high-rise
luxury flat.
‘Fine arts will return to the Latin quarters, to local galleries
and private collectors. Britain may see a revulsion against the giant
accumulator museums such as the Ashmolean and the London megaliths, with their
miles of underground shelving stashed with works kept from public view.
Provincial galleries may start claiming some of the nation's loot of ages, and
may get it. Such cash as is available may go their way.
‘The more reason to
greet this last cry of the old regime, confident in both its display and its
argument. We may not see its like again.’

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