Oxford University’s gardens, libraries and museums attracted 1,068,009 visitors in 2021, according to the latest figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).
2021 was a year when many of the sites were closed for the first five months (from January to May 2021). When sites reopened visitor numbers were limited by COVID restrictions and social distancing, which remained in place for the rest of the year. Despite this, the sites saw a healthy increase in visitors by the end of 2021 and much better performance overall than 2020.
Visitors to the University’s gardens, libraries and museums rose by 19% from 2020, which saw 897,576 visitors; but numbers remained below the pre-pandemic record of 3.3 million visitors in 2019.
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Bodleian Libraries both featured in ALVA’s list of the UK’s top 100 visitor attractions of 2021. The Museum of Natural History welcomed 268,500 visitors in 2021, ranking 78th in the UK. The Bodleian Libraries welcomed 245,281 visitors, ranking 86th. in the UK - an 11% increase on 2020.
The Ashmolean Museum welcomed 212,497 visitors, ranking 103rd in the UK. Pitt Rivers Museum welcomed 136,351 visitors in 2021, up 23% from 2020; while the History of Science Museum welcomed 31,911 visitors, an increase of 28% from 2020.
Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum was fortunate in being able to remain open for all of 2021. It welcomed 173,469 visitors over the year, making it 121st on ALVA’s ranking of UK visitor attractions. 2021 visitors were up 30% on 2020, which was already a banner year for the Botanic Garden and the Arboretum, as visitors flocked to the sites to enjoy the outdoor spaces for respite and relaxation during pandemic restrictions on indoor activities.
2022 presents a great opportunity for higher numbers and a rich programme of events, many free of charge, is on offer for people to enjoy:
- The Ashmolean Museum’s critically acclaimed spring exhibition, Pissarro: Father of Impressionism runs until 16 June and will be the subject of a feature film in cinemas worldwide from 24 May 2022. Book online at www.ashmolean.org
- The Museum of Natural History has also just opened a new, free exhibition exploring biodiversity and featuring powerful works by contemporary UK artist Kurt Jackson, called Biodiversity: Kurt Jackson. Visitors can also view the exhibition Meat the Future, which considers how food production and consumption of animal products affect people and planet, now extended until 8 May 2022. Free entry.
- In April the Bodleian Libraries will open Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive, which brings to life the story of the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb through the eyes of the archaeologists on the ground. The exhibition will explore the discovery, excavation, documentation and conservation of Tutankhamun’s tomb, including often overlooked Egyptian members of the archaeological team. Opening 11 April. Free entry.
- At Pitt Rivers Museum the exhibition Beyond the Binary which explores binaries of gender, sexuality and power, runs until June 2022. Visitors can also discover the work of artist Khadija Saye (1992-2017), whose display of silkscreen prints explores her fascination with the ‘migration of traditional Gambian spiritual practices. Free entry.
- At the History of Science Museum, visitors can still see the detailed glass sculpture of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, made by artist Luke Jerram, in The Art of Science. Opening for Marconi Day on 23 April, new on-gallery and online displays will explore the extraordinary story of scientist and entrepreneur Guglielmo Marconi. Visitors will discover his simple vision — to connect the world through wireless technology — told through stories which still resonate with us today, including the Titanic disaster, radio communications in time of war, and the founding of the BBC. Free entry.
- Oxford Botanic Garden continues its 400th anniversary celebrations with a range of events, lectures and exhibitions, culminating in a fortnight of celebrations in July 2022. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the Garden’s incredible botanical collections and heritage, as well as the impact it has made over four centuries. Over the spring visitors can enjoy courses at the Garden and Arboretum on everything from foraging and bushcraft to tree climbing. See: https://www.obga.ox.ac.uk/whats-on
Prebooking to visit any of Oxford University’s gardens, libraries and museums is no longer required, but visitors to the Garden and Arboretum and to the Ashmolean exhibition are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance.
Entry to the four museums and the Weston Library is free of charge. Entry to the Botanic Garden is free for University staff and students.
Opening times/details and further guidance on visiting is available at https://www.glam.ox.ac.uk/opening-times