The Ashmolean holds part of the founding collection gifted by Elias Ashmole to the University of Oxford in 1677. It consists of ethnographic objects from Asia, Africa and the Americas and a significant collection of European material, especially garments, utensils and intricately carved materials.

Most was collected during the 17th century by the John Tradescants, father and son, and later acquired by Ashmole. The Bodleian Library, Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum also hold material from the founding collection.

MacGregor, A. (ed.). Tradescant’s Rarities: Essays on the foundation of the Ashmolean Museum 1683 with a catalogue of the surviving early collections. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983)

Ovenell, R. F. The Ashmolean Museum 1683-1894. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).