HISTORIC display cases at one of Oxford’s most popular museums could be lost forever following fears they can no longer protect artefacts from pests.

The wooden display cases in the 19th century Oxford University Museum of Natural History are set to be replaced by glass cabinets.

Earlier this year architects and historians branded the plans ‘utterly absurd’ and championed the wooden cabinets’ architectural and historical value.

But Oxford University has now further justified the move by claiming the current cabinets do not provide the standards of climate and pest control needed to protect the artefacts.

The cases house a large proportion of the museum’s millions of specimens, which includes dinosaur vertebrates, fossils, and the most complete remains of a dodo in the world.

The entire collection is valued at approximately £7m and more 750,000 people visit annually.

The university’s 13-page document, further justifying the cabinet replacements, revealed that three options maintaining at least some of the current designs and features, which date back to the 19th century, were rejected.

It said: “The university’s preferred proposal is to accept the loss of the historic (and much altered) cabinets and install new, modern, fully-glazed display cases of the highest quality that will protect and preserve the important museum collection for current and future generations.

“This will ensure that the museum and its collections can be displayed in the best way possible for visitors, that the historically important and rare objects inside the cabinets will not be at risk of pest or environmental damage, and that staff will be able to operate the cabinets safely and securely for many years to come.”

The plans caused outrage when they were unveiled in February.

Peter Howell, secretary of the Victorian group of the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society, said: “The contribution which these cases make to the architectural and historical value of the museum is inestimable.”

He added: “The argument in the application that ‘the fact that they evoke a sense of history is fortuitous rather than designed’ is utterly absurd.”

Architect Birkin Haward, who wrote a detailed description of the museum in Architects Journal in 1989, objected ‘most forcefully’.

He said: “I find it inconceivable in the current climate of extraordinarily sensitive and skilful resolutions to just this sort of design challenge in museums worldwide that this application is even being considered."

Historic England said the cabinets had undergone a ‘long history’ of alterations and little of the original material remained, meaning it had no objection.