Arts Council England’s Designation Development Fund (DDF) awarded the Pitt Rivers Museum a substantial grant to catalogue and make accessible one of its significant amulet collections.
The Small Blessings project focused on a major collection of amulets collected by the French ethnologist Adrien de Mortillet more than a century ago and acquired by Sir Henry Wellcome before its transfer to Oxford. In doing so, the project built on the success and impact of more than a decade of DDF grants to improve the care and interpretation of collections.
Often completely unique and personal, utilising auspicious materials and symbolism, amulets were - and continue to be - made for various purposes. Amulets are used to avert evil, misfortune and disease. They are also used to bring good luck in harvests, journeys and war. A theme that unites them is that the people who created and used them believed they had the power to alter or affect the world around them. In this sense amulets can help us understand the human need for well-being and universal concepts of hope and belief.
The grant enabled the project team to create individual records for more than 2500 of these often-tiny objects and make these accessible via our online database. It also provided an opportunity for the Museum to create this website in order to pilot and evaluate new digital, film and mobile resources designed to broaden public access and participation, capture fresh perspectives on the collections, share best practice among professional and educational partners, and reveal the stories behind a selection of these intriguing objects.
We hope you enjoy it.
Project dates: February – September 2012

Artisans of Memory

Behind the scenes of an amulets project

This series of short films follows the progress and practices of those connected with the Small Blessings project as they unravel the stories surrounding these curious objects.

The full series of films may be viewed here.


Amulets Competition

The competition is now closed and a winner has been announced. Find out more here.

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Copyright 2012 The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford