News item from 2010

Millais - The Return of the Dove to the Ark

A Blanket, A Dose of Penicillin & A Morris - Objects That Tell A History of Oxfordshire And Its Place In The World

The list of 10 objects can be seen on the BBC Local site for Oxford, and all the objects are on display at the relevant museums.

The list of 10 objects for Oxfordshire is part of the wider A History of the World project formed out of a unique partnership between the BBC, the British Museum and 350 museums and institutions across the country.

Dr John Hobart of Oxford University Museums said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the museums and the people of Oxfordshire to focus on local objects and show how our county has contributed in many and diverse ways to the wider world. These ten objects are only a starting point for discussion, and we look forward to seeing what else is put forward from private and other collections to add to the story of Oxfordshire and its relationship with the world."

These ten objects are a starting point for discussion and a catalyst for listeners and viewers to suggest objects that they believe have a story which should be told. The public can actively participate by uploading photographs of their own objects that have a local or global appeal. At the end of February 2010 it is hoped that each BBC Local website will have an additional “People’s 10 Objects” telling the history of their region and its global connections.

BBC Project manager for the Nations and English Regions, Seamus Boyd, said: “A truly fascinating range of objects has been chosen for each list across English regions. Some of them may have great monetary value, others little or none, but they're priceless in how they bring to life moments from history. This initial collection is just the blueprint to which we hope viewers and listeners will add their own objects and help to create a truly unique and vibrant tapestry of the past.”

Museums around the county will be holding events in February half-term to celebrate A History of the World. More information on Oxford’s planned event will be released soon.

Also as part of A History of the World, tonight’s BBC Inside Out South (Monday January 18th, BBC One, 7.30pm) will visiting two of Oxford’s Museums as guest presenter Dr Tom Higham of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit and Inside Out’s Joe Crowley go on the hunt for the best object from six museums across the South.

Dr Higham visits the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ashmolean in Oxford, on a 1910 bicycle made by William Morris who mended cycles before building cars, while Joe will be travelling in style using a 1930s yellow soft top Morris 8 car – mass produced by Morris at his factory in Cowley, near Oxford. He will be visiting museums on the South coast – Chichester, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

The list of 10 objects can be found at and is as follows:

Finishing Post and Bell from Roger Bannister’s sub-4minute mile – Oxford University Sports Department (on public display at Iffley Road Sports Centre, Oxford)

Roger Bannister, a medical student at Oxford University, was the first man to run a mile – at Iffley Road - in under 4 minutes, a time long thought to be impossible to beat. The finishing post and bell are iconic in world athletics, symbolising that no feat of athleticism should be considered beyond challenge.

The Domitianus Coin from the Chalgrove Hoard – Ashmolean Museum
Domitianus was a Roman emperor who was erased from history by one of his successors. This coin is the only material evidence anywhere in the world that he did actually exist and when, and it was found in an Oxfordshire village by a metal detectorist among a larger hoard of coins.

The Structure of Penicillin - Museum of the History of Science
The structure of Penicillin was worked out using X-ray crystallography. The leading contributor in this research was the Oxford scientist Dorothy Hodgkin who took up the problem in 1942. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.

‘The Return of the Dove to the Ark’ by Sir John Everett Millais – Ashmolean Museum
The Pre-Raphaelite movement captured the public imagination both in the 19th Century and today, influencing not only painters, but also architects, poets and writers. Among those was William Morris who inspired and led the Arts and Craft movement. This was the first Pre-Raphaelite painting seen by William Morris and influenced his thinking around art and decoration and how it should be approached.

Whit-Horn - Pitt Rivers Museum
In accordance with an old charter, certain villages in Oxfordshire were allowed on Whit-Monday to kill a stag in the forest preserves. These instruments, made from a strip of willow bark, were used to ‘call’ the villagers to the hunt. The Whit-horns, along with Morris Dancing, are emblematic of the traditional Oxfordshire way of life and community that are now seldom seen in a faster moving modern age.

MK 5 dummy fuel rod - Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock
Founded at Harwell in 1946 the Atomic Energy Research Establishment became the powerhouse for developments in physical science and engineering technology. Europe’s first nuclear reactor was designed and built there.

Nurse’s uniform World War 2 - Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock
Worn by Mary Boundy, an Oxfordshire nurse who was one of eight women nurses to land with the troops on D-Day. She also accompanied British troops, including members of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, as they entered Bergen Belsen concentration camp in April 1945.

Mascot Morris 10 car 1936 - Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock
William Morris opened his factory in Cowley, Oxford in 1913 and the company's first car, the 2-seat Morris Oxford "Bullnose" was introduced. He made cars more cheaply using the production line methods first devised by Henry Ford. The Morris 10, the big brother of the 8, was introduced to the range in the 1930s.

Later 20th century Witney blanket made by Charles Early - Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock
From the mid 17th century red and blue blankets made in Witney were traded with native Americans in Virginia and New England and later across Canada in return for the fur of beavers and other animals.

Woodstock steel small sword - Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock
In the 18th century Woodstock was renowned throughout Europe for the quality of the cut steel products made there. Swords such as this (c1775-80), with its highly decorated hilt, an essential element of male adornment, were especially prized. Cut steel objects were frequently sent to be used as diplomatic gifts by ambassadors at courts throughout Europe.

A History of the World is a unique partnership between the BBC, the British Museum and 350 museums and institutions across the country. At its heart is a landmark series on BBC Radio 4, A History of the World in 100 Objects, broadcast from Monday 18 January. The series, written and presented by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum will feature 100 objects from the British Museum’s collection and will tap in to the unique power of objects to tell stories and make connections across the globe. The project also includes: a CBBC series Relic: Guardians of the Museum broadcast from January 2010; large-scale activity across the Nations and English regions including lists of 10 museum objects on each BBC Local site telling the story of that region; an exciting and interactive digital proposition live from 18 January at; plus an invitation to audiences to offer objects they own to create a unique digital museum online. The important legacy of A History of the World will be secured through the website and through the work and partnerships across the Nations and English Regions.


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