Life, As We Know It

Beginning in 2018, the Life, as we know it redisplay project has involved the conservation of thousands of specimens and the development and installation of exciting new displays. Our Main Court is now home to 36 new exhibits housed in state-of-the-art showcases.

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Natural forms case in the new Life as we know it displays, featuring a variety of mollusc shells
A visitor enjoying one of the new displays at the museum
Struggle for survival, a new case at OUMNH



Sixteen new exhibits sitting within the historic Main Court at the heart of the Museum, comprising four different galleries.

  • Beautiful, vibrant scenes from across the globe feature in our Present-day Ecosystems displays. These show connections between living organisms in an ecosystem, and the processes that maintain this delicate balance. Real specimens will include an anteater and a macaw in the Amazon rainforest, and a mother and baby baboon in the East African grasslands. Metal, woodwork and photography create the evocative, stylised environments around the specimens.
  • Seven new displays added to the How Evolution Works gallery, which explores key concepts and processes of evolution, showing how it underpins the development of all life. Drawing on core National Curriculum topics, the displays will be used as departure points for school and university teaching sessions, while remaining accessible to the general visitor. The most recent displays include the role of DNA and genes in evolution, and a specimen-rich display about convergent evolution.
  • The final three displays in Phase 3 sit within the Biodiversity and How the Earth Works galleries, introducing and exploring topics such as woodland ecology, ancient glaciers and the amazing diversity of animal skin.
  • Timeline:

October – December 2023 – glass showcases built

January – February 2024 – internal display set-works constructed by external contractors

March – April 2024 – specimen installation by museum team


FCC Communities Foundation

With thanks to FCC Communities Foundation and DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund for supporting these displays.


 Research-led: Scientists from across the University of Oxford have contributed their world-leading expertise to the development of our new displays.


 Accessible to all: Our new exhibits are designed to appeal to everyone from the casual browser to the detail-hungry learner.


 Inspiring change: Our new displays will consider the past and future of our planet, with an aim to inspire our 750,000+ yearly visitors to take action and help preserve global biodiversity.


Support Life, as we know it and help shape the future of our Museum. Donations to the General Fund will help support the redisplay across four key areas: