Oxford, as locals know, is more than just the universities and colleges.

The Museum of Oxford, located in the city centre in the Grade II* listed Town Hall, showcases these hidden histories, through its vast collection of objects focused on the city’s history and people.

However, the museum was disjointed and unable to effectively engage with modern-day visitors, and in 2011 it partially closed.

Purcell later won the tender to refurbish and redevelop the museum into a vibrant destination for visitors and our local community alike.

The revamped museum now features new visitor facilities, refurbished galleries, which have tripled the number of exhibits on show, and new learning spaces.

Our client’s brief was simple: create a more inclusive and engaging visitor offer through improved accessibility, revamped exhibition spaces and new learning and welcome spaces.

In order to deliver this, we needed to assess what a 21st century museum and community asset located within a historic building could look like.

The refurbishment struck a careful balance between retaining and conserving important historic features and reordering the Victorian building, which had been subdivided in the 20th century, to create new spaces for support visitor experience.

New toilets, kitchenette, storage spaces and volunteer area, all of which are wheelchair accessible, mean that school groups and visitors can enjoy a more comfortable, user-friendly space that offers equal experience to all.

Engendering community spirit was a real focus for the client: not only delivering a high-quality project local people could be proud of, but also one that provided much-needed space for groups to gather and better reflects the museum’s mission and collection.

The 'Museum Makers' space

‘Museum Makers’, for example, is a new space created in former storage room, which is now a dedicated space for school and community groups to engage in handling and creating exhibitions that reflect Oxford’s citizens and places today.

The refurbishment works included: the insertion of two new platform lifts, an overhaul of existing MEP, removal of modern partitions, UV treatment to the external windows, repair works to existing ceilings, repairs, and maintenance work to the internal courtyard, improvements to doors, and insertion of a new fire curtain to meeting building control requirements and new finishes and redecoration throughout.

Delivering the project from our local Oxford studio, our team were on-hand to guide the project from design inception to completion and being local to the city, our team had a direct connection to the project and its goals. The project received support and funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund (NHLF), Oxford City Council and Arts Council England and successfully opened in 2021.

Click here to watch a video of the finished project.