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This is an archive site and is not updated. It represents works conducted by Oxford University Museums funded by Arts Council England between 2012-2018. For information about our current work please visit

Yellow Magic

5 June 14 -- jsuess

Supported by the ASPIRE Innovation Fund, the team at the Museum of the History of Science ran the project ‘Yellow Magic’, which set out to explore the potential for working with the museum’s medical collections and identify opportunities for new interpretation and schools and public engagement activities. The museum worked on the project in partnership with the university’s Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, forging new ties and helping that department achieve its impact goals.

Led by Chris Parkin, the museum’s Lead Educations Officer, the project succeeded in delivering a number of pilot events and developing new object handling activities, some of which have now found their way into the museum’s core programme of schools workshops and family events. These include…

Medicine and Materials Study Days for KS3

Study days were organised for year 9 students in partnership with the Oxford Botanic Garden and Department of Chemistry. The day’s programme involved three workshops in rotation focussing on aspects of medicine, and new object handling activities at the museum. The museum ran two days in July, which were fully booked with 140 students from 8 secondary schools.

Yellow Magic Family Event

In September the museum organised a half day family event called Yellow Magic. Three postgraduate students from the Wellcome Unit took part as well as four other volunteers. They delivered an object handling activity, an activity looking at bacteria in the home, and a role play activity with Professor Howard Florey and Ernst Chain engaged in a conversation that brought the story of penicillin to life. Around 130 people took part, despite building works around the museum entrance.

Reminiscence Workshop

Working in partnership with the Museum of Oxford’s Reminiscence Officer – a post funded by Oxford ASPIRE – the Museum of Oxford delivered one of their regular Memory Lane reminiscence workshops at the Old Radcliffe Infirmary on the subject of medicine. Over 60 elderly people attended, many of whom had previous associations with the infirmary.

Crystals Day

In March 2014, as part of the International Year of Crystallography, a family day of activities was delivered alongside a special exhibition; it also coincided with National Science and Engineering Week and was included in the Oxfordshire Science Festival and Oxford University Museums’ Reactions festival of science and culture. The day included hands on activities as well as talks and tours of the special exhibition with contributions from the departments of Chemistry, Physics and Biochemistry involving a team of postgraduate students as STEM ambassadors, and volunteers from the Russell Society and amateur geological society. The programme highlighted the role of crystallography in modern medicine and activities included molecular model making. The event was attended by over 1400 visitors.

Crystallography Sixth Form Study Day

The museum also held a sixth form study day again with the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The programme highlighted the role of crystallography in modern medical research, but included a historical perspective in a keynote talk given by Professor Sutton from Kings College London.  The event was oversubscribed with the number of places limited to 60 as the museum piloted a new format for their study days that located all the activities within the museums.


Feedback collected from participants via questionnaires was overwhelmingly positive particularly around the range of activities offered and the medical themes involved. As a result the museum will roll out their new self-contained style study days more broadly, and is looking to expand their offer around the subjects of penicillin and antibiotics.