A LION mask from 6th century China, a hedgehog vase from Egypt and a ceramic dancing Cypriot woman dating back to 475BC are among the Ashmolean Museum’s treasures giving people inspiration during the coronavirus lockdown.

The temporary closure of the Ashmolean has left a hole at the heart of Oxford’s cultural life. This should be a busy time for the Beaumont Street venue at what ought to have been the start of the tourist season and with the doors just opening on a blockbuster Rembrandt show.

However, its curators are not sitting on their hands. If the world can’t come to the museum, then they have vowed to take the museum out to the world.

Every day, they are selecting a quirky item from the museum’s collection, posting it on social media and inviting the public to create their own artistic response – whether that be a story, doodle, painting, model, meme or even a Lego or Plasticine figure. The initiative is called Isolation Creations and museum staff are delighted with the response.

Other objects already posted include a duck-shaped water dropper from Japan, a beautiful blue Turkish Iznik tile, a Minoan octopus jar from Knossos, and a textile fragment from Mamluk Period Egypt (1250–1517) showing two peacocks practising exemplary social distancing.

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The Ashmolean’s Claire Parris said: “My wonderfully inventive colleagues have been working from home on loads of content that the Ashmolean is putting online, and thinking up things people can do while they have to stay at home, such as Isolation Creations.

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“While we’re all at home social distancing, we want to help people channel their creativity.

“Each day we are sharing an object from our collection on Twitter and Instagram and want to see people’s creative response to it.

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“This could be a doodle, a painting, a knitting project, a poem, an interpretive dance, some form of baking... you name it. They can be as quick or detailed, as big or small as they like.

“We’ve had some great responses. and, who knows, maybe one day their work will find its way to our collection!”

Press office colleague Sarah Holland said: “We are encouraging our followers to create one thing inspired by our collections every day."

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In its first five days, the campaign reached tens of thousands of people, saw 14,000 engagements, and received more than 250 creative contributions, including poems, animations, prints, cross-stitch, stories, interpretive dance, knock-knock jokes, fashion designs and more.

We’ve also had lots of positive responses from our followers, saying that they look forward to the daily challenge, and that it has helped to take their minds off the uncertainty and discomfort of the situation.”

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She added: “We hope we can harness the power of the museum to help bring something calm and positive – and perhaps distracting – to the public”.

Director Xa Sturgis said: “We’ve deliberately shied away from the most glamorous and famous works in the museum to focus attention on the huge variety of human creativity across time and space.

“The responses of our followers have been just as various, creative, playful inspiring and diverting,

“We would love more of you to join us in the challenge.”