TWO free exhibitions at the Ashmolean Museum on Oxford will explore gay history.

No Offence: Exploring LGBTQ+ Histories opens at the Beaumont Street institution tomorrow.

The artefacts are on show in a British Museum partnership exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales.

Matthew Winterbottom, the museum's exhibition curator said: “The Ashmolean’s collections contain many objects with hidden and often neglected LGBTQ+ histories.

“We hope this exhibition, together with the accompanying trails and events, will help these stories to be uncovered and celebrated.”

First shown last year and developed in consultation with community partners, the exhibition is inspired by A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity Across the World written by Oxford’s Professor of Egyptology, Richard Bruce Parkinson.

The exhibition explores the often overlooked and under-represented stories that are to be found in museum collections and art and artefacts from across the globe.

It includes the Ain Sakhri Lovers, the world’s earliest known representation of two people having sex. Discovered near Bethlehem, the tiny calcite sculpture dates to about 9,000 BC and shows two figures with their legs and arms wrapped around each other. They have no faces or identifiable attributes and there is no written account of the sculpture so there is no way of knowing their gender.

Another highlight is a copy of the shooting script of the groundbreaking 1987 Merchant Ivory film, Maurice, lent by director James Ivory.

The film is now recognised as one of the greatest LGBTQ+ romantic films of all time and has been recently restored and re-released. Oscar winner James Ivory will be Visiting Professor at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities during November, where a programme of events will include a post-film Q&A with the director at the Curzon cinema at the Westgate Centre, after a showing of Autobiography of a Princess (1975) on November 6.

Other objects on show range from Ancient Greek erotic pots to modern campaign signs and badges, showing how same-sex desire, love and gender-diversity have been depicted throughout history and across cultures. Some objects relate to named individuals famously associated with LGBTQ+ culture – the poet Sappho and the Ladies of Llangollen.

At the same time, a second exhibition Antinous: Boy Made God, will focus on Antinous, a favourite of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (AD 117–138).

No Offence runs until December 2 while the Antinous displays remain until February 24.