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Portrait of Oxford Project

Discovering an Unknown City

Oxford Unmasked

Muse Internships

Picture of the front cover of the book 'Guide to an unknown university'

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Discovering an Unknown City

Welcome to our Portrait of Oxford Project. When tourists come to the city they are shown its ancient monuments and medieval buildings. But they have little idea of the emotions hidden behind the facades they see. The aim of our project is to discover who inhabits the city, to find out the thoughts and feelings of the thousands of people who walk its streets, work in its shops and businesses, sit quietly in its parks. We also want to encourage new kinds of conversations in Oxford between people of different backgrounds, occupations, cultures and ages. We have created over 200 portraits of people in the city, published two books of portraits and held events such as Conversation Meals. We continue developing the project in new and adventurous ways.

Oxford Unmasked

Oxford Unmasked was a series of conversation events celebrating the diversity of the city, with support from the cultural development agency Oxford Inspires and BMW Group Plant Oxford.

Other Conversation Events

Modern Art Oxford opened late  and drew huge crowds to an evening of art, music, poetry, food and conversation. The Muse Conversation Menu proved to be a great success. Click here for details.

We held cross-generational conversations at The Corner Cafe, run by Age Concern Oxfordshire. For photos and details click here.

We organised a Conversation Lunch with members of the local Quaker community. For photos and details click here.

We also held a Conversation Dinner at the Vaults & Garden Cafe in central Oxford. Around 50 people from different communities took part.

  • Listen to some of them talk about their experiences at the dinner.
  • These are extracts from The Art of Conversation, a radio programme about The Muse.

Recent portraits

Muse Interns, most of whom are university students, have been creating portraits across the city in a project with funding from the Higher Education Active Community Fund. Some of their latest subjects include:

How a practioner of Zen, and sometime artist, lives life as a part of the world: Anne Chatterton

Nobody told me about the starting gun: Why the years from sixty to seventy were the best of my life: Eve Hoare

Why a former company director hasn't eaten at a restaurant for four years: Simon Allen

Why should work and leisure be separate enterprises?: John Sloboda

What a Quaker ex-teacher needs to feel complete: Richard Thompson

One of our current projects involves Oxford Muse volunteers, most of them students at the University of Oxford, making audio and video portraits of Year 10 pupils from Oxford Community School.

Muse Internships

Most of our portraits are made with the help of volunteers on our Internship Programme, many of whom are university students. The majority of portraits are put on this website. A selection of 50 have also been published in a book, Guide to an Unknown City. Our book Guide to an Unknown University, is based on students and staff at Oxford University. We plan to publish further volumes of portraits and to use the portraits in art and theatre projects.

Participants in our Internship Programme write a self-portrait before starting to write portraits of other people in Oxford. Some also work on special projects, such as creating portraits of Oxford's scientists. Muse Interns say their activity enhances their self-confidence, gives them a sense of being useful and the chance to learn from the experience of other generations and other social groups. If you are looking for new opportunies in writing, research and publishing, and would like inspiring conversations that change the way you look at the world, then you may be interested in joining our Internship Programme.

If you would like to find out more about our Internship Programme, or would like to have your portrait created by one of our volunteers, please email us, or call 01865-791421.