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  • Writer's pictureAlex Beeton, PhD

A Brief History of The Story Museum in Oxford

What is The Story Museum?

The Story Museum is a unique museum in Oxford that’s dedicated to stories and the art of storytelling.

The Story Museum

TheStoryMuseum, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Story Museum History

This charming museum is dedicated to the magic of the imagination and is suitably housed within a building which itself could appear in a fairy tale. Located in 19th-century Rochester House, the museum is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford’s main streets, in tranquil surroundings conducive for a trip into wonderland.

Through truly immersive exhibitions and gallery spaces, the museum aims to ‘enrich lives, especially young lives, through stories’ and the art of storytelling. The Story Museum places a strong emphasis on interactive experiences, hosting performances, clubs, workshops, and courses which help attendees build their own storytelling skills.

Their formula has proved a remarkable success. The museum was only founded in the early 2000s as a homeless, virtual museum and was able to move to its current location thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor who gave the managers £2.5 million. Subsequently, thanks to its popularity, the site was given a glossy makeover and renovation which started in 2018 and cost around £6 million over two years.

The Story Museum is involved with a number of prestigious events in the Oxford literary calendar and has hosted famous authors such as Michael Morpurgo, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, and Anthony Horowitz.

The most notable annual event that the museum coordinates is Alice’s Day, a celebration every July of the children’s classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Wonderland was created by an Oxford Don, Charles Dodgson, who wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll. One day in July 1862, Dodgson made up the story of Alice and her adventures into a mythical wonderland in order to entertain Alice Liddell and her two sisters, who were the daughters of close friends of his, while they were out on a boating trip. They set off from Folly Bridge, just a little further down St Aldate’s from the Story Museum. Fittingly, the museum and this most renowned example of Oxford storytelling are now closely aligned. Each year on Alice’s Day, the museum organises a number of events and parades dedicated to the work, which includes a colourful procession through the city. The day serves to showcase the Story Museum’s unique way of bringing the marvellous to life.

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