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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


As part of our internal Arts Council England funded activity, Oxford University Museums run something called the Innovation Fund. This is a competitive internal funding stream to which colleagues working across our museums can apply to support projects that are above and beyond their usual budget and remit. The purpose of the fund is to facilitate innovative and experimental ways of working by providing colleagues with seed funding and the mandate to test new ideas and experiement with new ways of working, helping us become more innovative, resilient and sustainable organisations.

In order to get people thinking outside the box, and collaboratibe with colleagues from different parts of the organisation that they may not interact with regularly, each year we kick of the call fir applications with an Innovation Workshop. This is a team building exercise and we also aim to equip colleagues with tools to help them stress test their ideas and develop more robust projects.

We ask recipients of Innovation Fund awards to share details and evaluation of their projects on our blog - look below for a series of blog posts on our projects and innovation workshops.

Accolades for British Prehistory Project

15 July 16 -- Anonymous
Arrowheads from British Prehistory

We are delighted to share that Clare Coleman, Education Officer for Early Years to Key Stage 2 at the Ashmolean Museum, and William Mills, Oxford University PhD student and experimental archaeologist, received an honourable mention at this year’s OxTALENT awards ceremony. This was in recognition of the brilliant podcast series, titled Living in the Stone Age, they created as part of their project to develop primary resources relating to British Prehistory.

Human Generated Vibrations and Museum Exhibits

10 June 16 -- jsuess

Last year the OUMP Innovation Fund supported a project called Quantifying and Mitigating Human Generated Vibrations to Museum Exhibits, led by the Ashmolean Museum Conservation Team in partnership with Engineering Science. Work was undertaken by Manolis Chatzis (Associate Professor) and Maria Espinosa (DPhil Candidate) in Engineering Science, and Daniel Bone (Deputy Head of Conservation) and Mark Norman (Head of Conservation) from the Ashmolean.

Innovation Workshop 2016

19 February 16 -- jsuess

For the past three years as part of our Arts Council England activity prigramme, here at Oxford University Museums we have run something called the Innovation Fund.

British Prehistory Project

2 November 15 -- jsuess

A soon as British Prehistory appeared on the Primary School Curriculum I knew there was work to do. For a start, I knew very little about this time period and I quickly discovered that many teachers were not too confident about tackling this remote part of our history. However, the Ashmolean has a strong collection of wonderful objects spanning the thousands of years from the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age (from as early as c300,000 years ago) to the Iron Age (c750BC – 43AD).

Talking Objects

6 July 15 -- jsuess

This post is part of a series highlighting outcomes of the Innovation Fund in 2014-15 - Read about the Innovation Fund.

iPads for Registrars

1 June 15 -- jsuess

This post is part of a series highlighting outcomes of the Innovation Fund in 2014-15 - Read about the Innovation Fund.

Image - Packing image for report for loan out

Inside the Tower

28 May 15 -- jsuess

This post is part of a series highlighting outcomes of the Innovation Fund in 2014-15 - Read about the Innovation Fund.

The aim of the project was to deliver live video streaming from the nesting swifts in the tower at the Museum of Natural History.  During the summer months, when the birds are nesting, the live stream is broadcast on the television in the Museum court, and on the Museum website.

Enabling Innovation

26 May 15 -- jsuess

Earlier this month I attended the Museums Computer Group Spring Event which looked at innovation, particularly in terms digital activity within museums - what does innovation mean (for museums, for funders), how can innovative projects contribute to our core museum activities, and how can we encourage innovation within our organisations.

Visual Storytelling

26 May 15 -- jsuess

This post is part of a series highlighting outcomes of the Innovation Fund in 2014-15 - Read about the Innovation Fund

What was the project?

Percy Manning Workshop

6 November 14 -- jsuess

Percy Manning Workshop, 3 October 2014, Pitt Rivers Museum

Contributed by Mike Heaney

The purpose of the day, funded by ASPIRE, was to help shape what we might do in 2017 to celebrate the life and work of Percy Manning (1870-1917). His extensive legacy is scattered across three different institutions in Oxford, and his interests were so extraordinarily wide-ranging that it can be difficult to see and appreciate the man as a whole.

What does innovative museum practice look like?

6 June 14 -- jsuess

Last month Oxford ASPIRE held a sandpit event, bringing together staff from across the Oxford University Museums and the wider university to develop innovative new ideas for the museums. As part of the event, ASPIRE invited some key friends from within the university to present provocations, asking them the question: 'What does innovative museum practice look like to you?'

What does innovative practice in a musuem look like to you?

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.

Museum Goes for a Pint

29 May 14 -- jsuess

Throughout 2013, the Museum of Natural History in Oxford was closed to the public, for essential repair work to done to its leaky roof. Far from a year of dormancy, the museum was involved in a variety of outreach projects to continue to reach audiences, old and new. 

Afterhours Cinema Club at the Pitt Rivers

21 May 14 -- Anonymous
The Adventures of Prince Achmed screening at the Pitt Rivers March 2014

In March this year, the Pitt Rivers VERVE team hosted a unique cinema event in collaboration with Oxford ASPIRE and Oxford University Humanities division. The event was funded as a pilot and comprised a film screening with live music, expert talks from academics and object handling.

Count Me In

1 May 14 -- jsuess

In 2013-14 the Oxford University Museums Volunteers Service, funded by our Arts Council England MPM grant, introduced a new project Count Me In, a ten week programme which looked to both diversify the Museum of Natural History’s volunteer pool, and supporting adults who face barriers to volunteering at the museums to find out what it is like to volunteer in a museum, gain transferrable skills, build confidence and study for an accredited qualification.

The aims of the project were:

Integrating iPads into Museum Art and Design Visits

24 April 14 -- jsuess

In 2013-14 ASPIRE piloted its Innovation Fund, a pot of money to which colleagues across the museums can bid to support innovative projects not within the scope of their core budget. ASPIRE was able to support a dozen projects which came in from across the museums from a variety of different colleagues including a Head of Conservation and one of our HLF Skills for the Future Education Trainees.

Museum Matches

10 December 13 -- jsuess

On 26 November 2013, the Museum of Natural History hosted the first "Museum Matches" event as part of a joint museums project with the Ashmolean Museum aimed at engaging students from across the university with museum objects.

The idea for the event came out of the Oxford ASPIRE Innovation Day where colleagues from across the Oxford University Museums came together to discuss ideas for innovative new ways of working, and was supported by the ASPIRE Innovation Fund.

Ashmolean’s Summer Family Fun 2013

24 October 13 -- jsuess

This summer ASPIRE used their Arts Council funding to support a pilot series of family programming and promotion at the Ashmolean. Using the tagline Friendly, Fun and Free, between 30th July and 30th August this new programme of activity was in addition to the workshops and trails usually run by the Museum’s Education Department over the summer.