Ashmolean, Oxford 2009

On the first day of The Ashmolean's opening to school groups, our GCSE art students encountered the new, light filled modern interiors, created by a £61 million re-development.

The museum maintains its familiar original exterior, but by major extension and refurbishment, it now houses double the gallery space. Thirty nine new galleries, an education centre and conservation studios provide extensive sites for the rich, eclectic collections of art and antiquities. Within the atrium some students viewed a plaster cast of Apollo that stands through virtually two floors.

Other pupils investigated the themed lower ground level, that focuses on the representation of the human form, languages and currency throughout history. An inspired feature of glass supported walkways and display cases, on each of the four upper levels, allowed us to look up and immediately view various exhibits.

The inclusion of an extensive interior wall also maximises the vast vertical display space. The whole museum is now more seamlessly accessible and is enhanced by the expansive use of available light. Recorded as the UK's oldest public museum, The Ashmolean first opened in 1683. The impressive re-development, designed by architect Rick Mather, also recently completed the extension to the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Students were also taken to absorbing collections at the equally unmissable Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers collection, to further build on their sketchbook research for their coursework. The diversity of exhibits seen at all three venues helped each student to develop a deeper level of personal research.

Mr J H Parnham, Head of Art.