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Museum to close due to restoration work
11:00am Thursday 7th June 2012 in News
OXFORD University’s world famous Museum of Natural History is to close for a year to allow major restoration work.
The museum attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year, but the repair of its vast glass roof will mean the closure of one of the city’s busiest attractions for the whole of 2013.
The restoration project will see three-quarters of the neo-gothic building under scaffolding.
But it is hoped the £2.1m scheme will finally solve the 150-year-old problem of a leaking roof.
The decision to go ahead with the work comes after the success of a six-month scheme to repair the section of roof above the museum’s “dinosaur aisle.”
That initial £700,000 project involved stripping and cleaning 3,500 of the 8,500 diamond-shaped glass panes, before returning them with safety film and compressible gaskets.
Museum director Prof Paul Smith said the results convinced the university that the job should be completed, even if it meant closure from next Christmas until early 2014.
He said: “It showed us what the museum could look like.
“That part of the roof no longer leaks and the quality of light in the interior court is much improved.
“We decided the best way forward is to combine the second and third phases to complete it in the shortest time.
“When the museum reopens it will be a brighter place.
“It is a rare opportunity to get a Grade I-listed building back to its original condition, improve the protective care of the collections.”
The glass roof is supported by slender columns of iron, and the project will also involve cleaning the ornate metal work to reveal the original colour scheme.
The museum has received a grant of £150,000 from the Wolfson Foundation towards the cleaning of the metal and stonework with the remaining cost met from the university’s repair and maintenance budget.
The museum entrance and shop will remain open during the work with a wide tunnel created so visitors can still reach the Pitt Rivers Museum, which will be open at the back of the Natural History Museum.
But to ensure the collections of fossils, birds and bugs do not go unseen, plans are being draw up to take them out to local schools and village halls.
Prof Smith, who took over as director in February, added: “It as the early stages of planning but we want to organise a series of outreach activities, and come up with innovative ways to take the museum out to schools and local communities.
“It is a good opportunity to trial an ‘off- premises approach’ which could continue in the future.”
He said researchers would still have access to the collections with the closure not having any “adverse impact” on the 50- strong staff.