Fundraising challenges for Ashmolean

Oxford museum’s development project in need of major financial boost

LONDON. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is facing a struggle to complete fundraising for its major development project, which opens in November. The recession came at a critical point, and a quarter of the money still needs to be found.

Total costs are £61m, including a £4m endowment fund. So far £45m has been raised. Museum director Dr Christopher Brown is now devoting almost all of his time to fundraising. The museum remains confident that it will open on schedule and the funds will be raised.

When the project was launched, Lord (John) Sainsbury of Preston Candover was named as the lead private donor. His contribution, via the Linbury Trust, was expected to be around £10m, paid in annual tranches. This would make him the largest private donor to a UK museum project outside London. Linbury Trust accounts show that donations up to April 2008 amounted to around £6m.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has pledged £15m. Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud has donated £2m for Islamic galleries. Other major donors include the Wolfson Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

The Ashmolean project involves a new building designed by Rick Mather to house both permanent collection galleries and temporary exhibitions, which will double display space. The original building is being refurbished and public facilities are being upgraded.

The museum closed to visitors last December. Building work is nearly complete and reinstallation of the collection will begin in late April under the theme “Crossing Cultures Crossing Time”. Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is Britain’s oldest museum.

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