Museum of Oxford

Topic: History Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Mark Magidson

Published on July 12, 2012, Modified on July 25, 2012

  • Description and goals

    Museum of Oxford
    Client: Oxford City Council

    • An Exhibition Plus project : Mark Magidson Creative Director
    HLF lottery + Wren funded
    • A design and build contract

    Working with client team, and our sub contractors Tim Gardom & Associates, we relocated the existing museum into the town hall. Oxford is well endowed with museums, but none tell the entire story of Oxford – this exhibition does.

    The Museum of Oxford now is divided into two main sections, the first contained within a reconstructed late 19th century office, inhabited by William White the city’s chief engineer. This gallery traces the history of Oxford and the specific story of the town hall and its locale.

    As the Museum is located at the centre cross roads in Oxford at Carfax, the adjacent Oxford gallery, is divided into the main points of the compass encouraging visitors to explore the city, north, south, east and west. Central to the gallery is a rotating monitor that takes visitors on a speeded up journey through the Oxford,again to the points on a compass, exploring Oxford within the themes of …

    City at Play, City at Work, City of Words, City of Invention

  • Development process and challenges

    Main challenge was to fit the recently closed exhibition (in another part of the Town Hall building) of over 600 square meters, into a space less than a quarter its size – without loosing key messages and critical mass.

    The team achieved this by taking a leaf out of the brilliant Pitt Rivers Museum, nearby and packing the 2 small rooms with interesting interpretation and artefacts. We were keenly aware of the circulation issues that might arise and planned the visitor flow accordingly.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    The development time of under 6 months and budget, was very tight. Our greatest challenge was to procure a set of large museum grade built in cases that could be obtained within the budget. The resulting cost engineering, to get the project on a sound financial footing (it was a design and build contract) had to be done against the clock – hair raising!

    We commissioned a set of 5 reconstructed illustrations that chart the history of Oxford. This set required much research and input from both the client group, archaeologists and our illustrator. Again set against a ticking clock with the knowledge that Oxford is full of people well versed to spot any errors – lead to a white knuckle ride, very close to the opening.

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