VISITOR numbers fell at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum but rocketed at the Bodleian’s Weston Library, thanks to a major exhibition on JRR Tolkien.

The summer of 2018 saw many indoor attractions experiencing a fall in visitor numbers because of the heatwave but the Bodleian enjoyed its most successful summer exhibition ever with Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.

Oxford Mail:

The once-in-a-lifetime show, seen by over 138,000 visitors, examined the full breadth of Tolkien’s unique literary imagination, from his creation of Middle-earth to his life and work as an artist, poet and scholar.

While the Bodleian figures were up in 2018 to 910,806, visitor numbers at the Ashmolean were down seven per cent.

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The Ashmolean still featured in the UK’s top 50 visitor attractions, with 882,494 visitors in 2018. Spokeswoman Claire Parris said: “although overall visitor figures were slightly down, within the figures there are some really good stats.

Oxford Mail:

"For our America’s Cool Modernism exhibition March 23-July 22), we exceeded our visitor target of 50,000 (we had 62,000); and of those 29 per cent had never been to the museum before – which is an especially important number.

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“For the Spellbound exhibition (Aug 31-6 Jan 6) we had more first-time visitors than any exhibition before. We had a target of 30,000 people and 45,000 came.”

Oxford Mail:

Visitors to Oxford University’s museums, libraries and gardens rose three per cent in visitors in 2018, according to the latest figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA). Over 3.3 million people visited the four university museums, the Bodleian Library and the Botanic Garden in 2018, giving the group its third record-breaking year in a row.

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The Bodleian, which saw an increase of 18 per cent, is now the most visited attraction in Oxfordshire. With over 910,000 visitors in 2018, it is the 10th most visited attraction in England outside London, and is ranked 41st in ALVA’s top 50 most visited attractions in the UK.

Oxford Mail:

Record-breaking visitor numbers were enjoyed by the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum, which saw increases of two per cent and four per cent respectively.

The Museum of Natural History, which had 786,000 visitors, now ranks as Oxfordshire’s fourth most visited attraction – after the Bodleian, Blenheim Palace and the Ashmolean.

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In September it launched a new permanent display, the largest to be added to the museum in decades.

Oxford Mail:

Out of the Deep features two large plesiosaur skeletons on full display for the first time: a short-necked plesiosaur found near Yarnton, five miles from the museum; and a long-necked plesiosaur, uncovered near Peterborough in 2014. The Pitt Rivers Museum recorded its most successful year, with over half a million visitors.

Visitor numbers at the Museum of the History of Science in Broad Street were down eight per cent to 176,757.