WHILE the nation prepares to emerge from the second national lockdown, staff at the country’s oldest public museum are busy getting its hallowed galleries ready for visitors.

But it is not just the curators and experts who are working flat out – so are the staff in the museum shop. The Ashmolean’s retail team have stocked the boutique with an incredible selection of gifts inspired by the history, design and beauty of its collections and special exhibitions. And they are urging shoppers to get in quickly by ordering online.

“We work with carefully selected partners to create unique products across cards, stationery, books, jewellery, toys and fashion,” says Shirley Jackson, the museum’s Commercial Director.

“We want to welcome everyone to the museum and that’s the same with the products in our shops. We aim for there to be a great choice of products in our shop whether you are shopping for yourself or for everyone on your Christmas shopping list.

“We have gifts for the discerning gentleman such as a Liberty print Luxor Oxford shirt and if your interest is an arty gift, our Old Masters memory game is a top choice, while gifts like our wooden train whistle is the perfect children’s stocking filler.”

While staff at the Beaumont Street institution hope to reopen on Wednesday when the lockdown ends, much depends on what tier of restrictions the city finds itself in.

For now, the best bet it is to order online, says Shirley. “Our online shop at shop.ashmolean.org has remained open and as well as a great choice of gifts, you’ll find offers on Christmas cards, decorations, diaries and calendars.

“When we re-open the museum our main shop on the lower ground floor will reopen at the same time, full of ideas and inspiration for Christmas gifts.

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She adds: “Following the Government announcement on Monday, we are really looking forward to re-opening our doors and welcoming our visitors back.

“It will be wonderful to see the museum come alive again, with people enjoying the galleries and finding their favourite treasure.

“As before, visitors will be required to pre-book tickets to help us manage social distancing. There’s still plenty of time for Christmas shopping and our café is a perfect place for lunch or a coffee and cake break, whether you are popping in or making a day of it.”

The start of the Christmas shopping season comes as The Oxford Times continues its campaign to encourage readers to support local, independent businesses. The Ashmolean Museum ticks many boxes for shoppers searching for the ultimate ‘Oxford’ gift – and helps support a valued local institution at the heart of the city’s cultural life.

“Like all cultural institutions, we are feeling the impact of lockdown and reduced visitor numbers on our income, which is crucial to the museum,” says Shirley.

“We have been extremely well-supported by Oxford University and have been able to take advantage of government support with the job retention scheme, but our self-generated income helps to continue our vital work to share our remarkable collections and to keep admission free, so we are thankful to everyone who has visited, shopped, or donated as all proceeds go back to the museum.”

She said it had been a tough year for the museum: “Like everyone, it’s been a year like no other for all of us at the Ashmolean.

“We were doing so well at the start of the year as our visitor numbers were beating records. Our Last Supper in Pompeii exhibition had captivated visitors and critics alike and our Young Rembrandt exhibition which opened in February also looked set to break targets.

“When we closed in mid-March, we were sad that people could no longer visit us for solace and inspiration at the very time when they may have needed it most, but our imaginative new digital programmes during lockdown, including our ‘Artists in Residence’ competition in partnership with The Oxford Times, provided a new way for our visitors, many of them first time, to engage and connect with the Ashmolean.

“We can’t wait to reopen!”

* Start your Christmas shopping online at shop.ashmolean.org. To ensure delivery by Christmas, order by December 11.

Our top 10 favourite Ashmolean gifts...

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Ashmolean Iris Scarf


Featuring a floral design, this stunning wool and silk blend scarf was designed with inspiration from the Ashmolean collections.

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Rembrandt Tea Towel


Exclusive to the Ashmolean, this soft 100% cotton tea towel features a charming self-portrait sketch by Rembrandt; wide eyed and open mouthed. A reproduction of a 1630 etching, and available in blue or orange, this light-weight absorbent towel will bring a little fun to your kitchen.

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Ashmolean Membership

From £45

Treat someone to free, unlimited access to next year’s exhibitions, The Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings and Watercolours and Tokyo: Art & Photography, as well as exclusive events and discounts.

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Baressentials Boxed Soap Selection


Eight guest sized pieces of natural handmade soap, beautifully wrapped in wax paper and packaged in a gift box. Each sumptuous soap recipe forms a creamy lather that hydrates and conditions even the most sensitive of skins.

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Luxor Liberty Print Shirt


A statement shirt made using Liberty tana lawn lightweight cotton. A fusion of colours including dove grey and claret.

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St. James Blue Cufflinks


Cufflinks decorated with the St James design by the celebrated Arts and Crafts designer William Morris. Beautifully presented in a flip top box, making an ideal gift for the gentleman that likes to dress up.

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Holiday Boredom Buster


Suitable for holidays and rainy days, the Holiday Boredom Buster will fill your days with endless fun. This book is packed with pictures to colour, doodles to complete and puzzles to solve - including mazes, spot-the-differences, search-and-finds, dot-to-dots and tricky brainteasers.

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Train Whistle


Simply blow on this wooden whistle for authentic vintage steam train sounds.

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Ashmolean Japanese Art Calendar 2021


With 12 exquisite prints by Japanese artist Ogata Gekko, this calendar showcases the incredible detail found in Japanese art from the Ashmolean Museum’s outstanding collections.

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Old Masters Memory Game


Old Masters Memory Game collects the most famous and beloved portrait painters from the 16th and 17th centuries in one game that is fun to play, educational, and a feast for the eyes.