MODERN technology is being used to help people explore ancient history on display in Oxford’s museums.

A new, free mobile phone app has been launched to help people get the most out of a visit to Oxford University’s four museums.

As well as offering basic visitor information, such as opening times and floor plans, selected highlights will be on show from each of the museums’ collections – including how to find them, detailed descriptions, high-resolution photographs and web links.

Jessica Suess, Oxford ASPIRE officer for the Oxford University Museums service, said: “A lot of people will just visit the Ashmolean or Pitt Rivers, but we want people to think we have done this museum, why not do all of them.

“The collections are so different and they are all unique and have different special collections so we wanted something that would highlight all the different collections.”

For each of the museums – the Ashmolean in Beaumont Street, the Pitt Rivers and the Museum of Natural History in Parks Road and the Museum of the History of Science in Broad Street – 10 different items have been chosen to give a snapshot of some of the most exciting highlights.

They range from an 11th century Buddha from Nepal or Tibet at the Ashmolean, to a 19th century Manet painting, also at the Ashmolean to a recycled toy aeroplane from Sudan at the Pitt Rivers.

There will be more information about each item available through the app than that on display within the museums.

The plan is for the objects to be changed regularly to reflect changes to the collection on display – and feedback from users.

Ted Koterwas, who developed the app, said: “There are lots of ways to engage people with museum objects.

“While we have our own ideas, we thought visitors should be able to tell us what they want and what works for them. We hope this is just the beginning.”

The app does not currently include audio or video clips, due to a lack of 3G coverage within the four sites because of the thick, conservation quality museum walls, but, as possibilities such as wireless are explored, the scope of the app may increase.

  • The app, called Explore Oxford University Museums, is available from Google Play or the Apple app store. It was funded by Arts Council England.