Alone in the Ashmolean

The noise of Oxford became a quiet hum as the entrance door slowly closed behind me. The air became still and calm, unlike the wind that rippled through the the streets. As I walked into the main hall I found even my footsteps seemed muted, but not silent. Nothing was ever completely silent while I was there. Couples talked in hushed tones about the painting in front of them, or a tour group intently listened as a guide explained the history behind a certain Greek statue. A child said, “Mummy! Look at those rocks!” and his mother replied, “Those aren’t just stones, those are artifacts!”. These conversations and human interactions were comforting to me as I walked the maze-like museum alone.

I didn’t know where to begin, so I decided to not really pick a beginning at all. I roamed from room to room, following no map, just allowing my feet to carry me. Every room was a different era and a different place, with some artifacts going back hundreds of thousands of years. In the Ancient Greece room, certain pots and plates were decorated with the stories of Greek gods and goddess and the myths and legends of heroes such as Hercules and Odysseus. There were depictions of the Virgin Mary carved into brass from ancient Jerusalem and decorative knives plated with gold handles from Mesopotamia. My personal favorite was the 19th-century artwork. The landscape paintings took my breath away and I would take in every detail. I would stop in front of a painting and stare for what seemed like hours, trying to burn the image into my mind.

Everything seemed to move slower in the Ashmolean. Everyone walked slower, talked slower and paused to look longer. I was no exception. I would stop and stare at display cases and squint my eyes to read the little plaques underneath each object. I would sit down on blue velvet cushioned seats or plain, long benches and just take in everything around me. It seemed if only mintues had passed while I was there, but it had actually been hours. As I headed toward the exit, I got to pass through more exibits which allowed me to take one last look at the beautiful artifacts. My quiet footsteps led me to the front door and back into rush and noise of the city.

One thought on “Alone in the Ashmolean

  1. I like the alliterative title very much, Maddy. This is also a great line: “Everything seemed to move slower in the Ashmolean.” I like the way you’ve book-ended the piece with the entrance and exit to/from the city and how you used your feet/footsteps as a theme throughout.

    My only thought for possible improvement is: how can we have a more emotional relationship with the piece? Perhaps there is something in the slowing down and being with art and history that has a particular impact in our modern lives. It’s just a thought for future pieces–finding that narrative that gives the reader a sense of the importance/poignancy.

    Glad you spent so much time wandering the Ashmolean! Excellent choice.


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