News item from 2012

Mellon Foundation

Major Grant For The Ashmolean Museum's University Engagement Programme

The Ashmolean, one of the world’s leading University museums, has received a grant of $1.1million (£708,000) from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a new University Engagement Programme, which will significantly expand the role of the Museum’s collections in teaching within the University of Oxford.

Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, said “We are delighted by this grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as it speaks to one of the principal objectives of the Ashmolean, its development as a major resource for teaching in the University. With this grant, we will substantially increase the range and number of teaching programmes that use the museum’s collections, bringing the experience of learning from objects to students across the University. There is, in my personal experience, no better way to learn than from the object. I believe there will be real excitement among students and faculty, in exploring how subjects such as the sciences, medicine, law and business can learn from this extraordinary museum.”

With over 1 million objects, the Ashmolean holds the largest and finest university collection of art and archaeology in the world. As a teaching resource, its potential is vast, provided that knowledge of how the collections can be used in University teaching is developed and disseminated among the faculties. The University Engagement Programme will focus both on improving the use of objects in the traditional subjects of history, archaeology, languages and literature and in developing ways for object-based learning to take place in non-traditional subjects such as medicine, law, business and the sciences. It is intended both to reinforce the practice of teaching with objects and to break new ground in the use of this key University resource.

As part of the programme, three Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship Teaching Curators will be established and funded for the duration of the three and a half year project. The post-doctoral Teaching Curators will come from backgrounds in History, Art History or Archaeology and will be responsible for developing classes, seminars and lectures that will be offered to the faculties. Based in the Ashmolean and led by the Director of University Engagement, the Teaching Curators will investigate and explore ways in which object-based teaching can be incorporated into current teaching. Working closely with curators and faculty members, they will facilitate the dialogue and identify key opportunities for making the museum’s collections available for teaching.

The programme will proactively combine the University’s curriculum with the Museum’s collections, making students and faculty aware of the unparalleled resources available at their doorstep. It will bring students in direct contact with the collections, to engage with objects, to develop their skills of observation and questioning and to reinforce the importance of developing visual literacy. Within traditional subjects, this will supplement the text-rich approach of the university curriculum. Within non-traditional subjects, it offers the chance to broaden the curriculum and expose students to different approaches and perspectives.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said “We are very grateful for the continuing support the Mellon Foundation has given for improving and expanding the academic resources of the University. The University Engagement Programme will open the door to the Ashmolean's collections, making use of this great University resource in creative and engaging ways.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation currently makes grants in six core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship; Scholarly Communications and Information Technology; Art History, Conservation, and Museums; Performing Arts; and Conservation and the Environment. Within each of its core programs, the Foundation concentrates most of its grant making in a few areas. Institutions and programs receiving support are often leaders in fields of Foundation activity, but they may also be promising new comers, or in a position to demonstrate new ways of overcoming obstacles to achieve program goals. For more information visit  

In receiving this grant the Ashmolean joins a select group of educational institutes that the Mellon Foundation has supported over the past two decades. It has funded university museums in America through the Art History, Conservation, and Museums program, with grants to museums at the University of Chicago, Cornell, Dartmouth, Emory, Harvard, the University of Kansas, Oberlin, RISD, Rutgers, Smith, Wellesley, Williams and Yale, among others. A summary report on the Mellon Foundation’s College and University Art Museum Program is available on line .


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