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Purcell led the development of a permanent home for The Story Museum in Oxford, transforming a collection of disjointed buildings into an unusual museum, full of character and whimsy.

The museum, formerly a ‘virtual’ one which visited schools, now sits in the heart of a city which has inspired storytellers from J.R.R. Tolkien to Philip Pullman, and explores stories told in every form.

Over numerous phases of work to realise the museum’s ambitious goals, our team led the museum’s redevelopment and have transformed three different and disparate buildings, including nineteenth-century Rochester House, and a former postal office, into one unified story emporium which it stands as today, positioned around a central courtyard.

The 19th century Rochester House and former pub has frontage on Pembroke Street at the heart of the city’s Central Conservation Area, with the other 20th century buildings tucked in behind and around a central courtyard. These were previously used as a general post office and telephone exchange and have their own unique history.

Clare Phillips, Senior Architect

Our team transformed the shell and core of the existing buildings into magical and mystical worlds from afar, and added new education and literacy research facilities and vibrant hospitality spaces. We consolidated the building into one legible and accessible museum through an external spiral staircase and lift in the courtyard, while an internal circular route connects all three buildings.

The use of tactile and colourful materials was an important element throughout the museum and has resulted in a design that will delight and stimulate children of all ages. Many materials and architectural features were reused from the old buildings and reimagined into the modern fit-out, and every design detail is bespoke.

The museum is accessible and up to building regulation standards. Our team also improved the thermal performance of the building’s fabric through adding insulation to the flat roof, lining of the internal walls and new double-glazed windows.

Purcell has been helping the museum tell its story through its building since Chapter 1 of our capital redevelopment which first enabled us to open our doors to the public in 2014. This second chapter has totally transformed our site, providing a fit-for-purpose, accessible museum that still retains the distinctive sense of magic and playfulness that our visitors so love.

Caroline Jones, Director of The Story Museum

Our role in the project also included the concept design and consultation on successful funding initiatives. Various eminent storytellers including Philip Pullman and Malorie Blackman are patrons of the museum and the £6m Chapter 2 capital project has been supported by significant grants from Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Wolfson Foundation, the Foyle Foundation and Nesta’s Arts Impact Fund, with ongoing support from Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation.

The project had a large design team and involved close collaboration with exhibition designers TKTK and Tom Piper.

Purcell are delighted to sponsor the inaugural exhibition ‘The Making of the Story Museum’ exhibition in ‘The Treasure Chamber’ – an environmentally-controlled exhibition space – exploring the story of the museum itself.

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