Tomorrow's Oxford Heads

At the front of the History of Science Museum and the Sheldonian Theatre on Broad Street, Oxford, sit 17 stone heads depicting bearded men, generally known as the Emperors' Heads.

What does the future hold for these Oxford icons?

We worked with the University of Oxford's School of Geography and the Environment to understand more about the history and mysteries of these heads, and also to explore possibilities for the future.

To open this discussion, temporary art installations were commissioned, following an open call to artists, with support from the Oxford University Diversity Fund. The new temporary heads were installed outside the Museum during the summer of 2019. The public was invited to come and view the new heads, and to contribute ideas on how public sculpture in Oxford could be diversified in the future to better represent people in today’s Oxford.  

The temporary new heads complemented a display about the previous generations of the stone heads in the Weston Library, across the road from the Museum: Oxford Stone Heads: History and Mysteries.

Clay heads: display and collection

Visitors to the Museum created a wonderful array of clay heads in response to the questions raised by this project.  These were on display in the Basement Gallery during the summer and have been photographed for future reference.

Exploring the past

Scientists from the School of Geography and the Environment have been researching the history of the stone heads. They have explored archival records, hunted for missing heads and tested old stone to help with conservation work. You can find out more about the project on the School of Geography's website.

In the media

A report from That's Oxfordshire: