Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

George Reginald Carline

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

George Reginald Carline (1885-1932) was educated at Repton and Exeter College, Oxford. He studied for the Diploma in Anthropology at the Pitt Rivers Museum. He worked on the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary and as an assistant curator at the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum. From 1919 to 1926 he worked at the Pitt Rivers museum as an assistant to Henry Balfour, the curator. He was the first president of the Oxford University Archaeological Society in 1919. He excavated with Gertrude Caton-Thompson and William Flinders Petrie in the Fayum in Egypt from 1925-6. From 1926 until his early death in 1932 he worked as Keeper at the Bankfield Museum in Halifax, Yorkshire. His folklore obituary records:

During the past year he had been working on the arrangment of a new Ethnograpical Room recently added to the Museum and formally opened about two months before his death. The method of arrangement was a new and experimental one, being an attempt to combine geographical sequence with a typographical arrangement, while laying emphasis on the aesthetic value of each specimen by its position. In replanning the whole collection, which contained exhibits of greatly varying range and merit, into an organic whole, he took endless trouble to satisfy the artistic sense he had inherited and developed. The work was heavy and the re-arrangements necessitated by the acquisition of the ethnographical section of the collection of the late John Speak possibly contributed to his breakdown. [HCL, 1933: 115]

Carline joined the Folklore Society in 1912 and was elected member of the Council in 1917. He collected in South and Central Africa, Central Europe and the Balkans which he visited on various occasions. The Folklore obituary remarks

He was keenly interested in Folk Museums, and in 1921 was sent to Sweden by the Anglo-Sweden Society to study the subject in Scandinavia, and after his return strongly advocated the establishment of a similar type of museum in England. [HCL, 1933: 116]

He attended the International Congress of Peasant Art at Prague in 1928 as one of three delegates from the Folklore Society. On his return he became a representative of the Society on the newly begun British National Committee for Folk Arts and Crafts. In 1929 he went to South Africa with the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Balfour was also on this trip). According to his obituary in Nature, 'afterwards spending some time in observation among the Mambwe tribe of Northern Rhodesia'.

Although he lived a long way from London in later years his Folklore obituary says that he was a regular attendant at Council and evening meetings. He did much work on British calendar customs. He also belonged to the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia, and was President of the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society. The obituary concludes:

His fellow members of the Council will sadly miss his absolute sense of rightness and his perfect courtesy, and many others a friend whom they will not easily replace.

His obituary in Man implies that he had long suffered from ill-health.

English artefacts donated by Carline to the Pitt Rivers Museum

Carline donated a total of 11 artefacts to the Museum from England.

1915.4.1-2 Plaster casts taken from obverse [and reverse] of a large biscuit mould found at Flamborough, Yorks, and now in the Hull Museum.
Detailed Amulet card catalogue entry - Amulets D. Crop Fertility, E. Offerings to Gods etc F. Spirit Houses, Scares G. Sacred and Mem. food H. Relics and Mementos - G Sacred and Memorial Food G2 Modern 5 Gt Britain - Description: 2 casts from a biscuit mould representing [insert] on obverse [end insert] man and woman in late Stuart or Georgian costume both smoking pipes, with signs I [crossed out] and D On reverse a watch and 3 objects ?keys dimensions of biscuit c 5" x 6 3/4" Locality: Hamborough [sic] Obtained by: G.R. Carline gift from Curator of Hull Museum July 1914 How Acquired: dd G.R. Carline 1915 [Drawing on reverse]

1918.27.1 Packet containing two needles, given as small change (value 1/4d), at a linen-drapers shop, Oxford, 1918. [Note that oddly this item's donor in another source is given as Winifred Blackman]

1919.56.2 Japanese cup-and-ball game, the cup of cardboard and the ball covered with thin leather after the method used in England for covering tennis balls.
Additional Accession Book Entry - The above were brought at a shop in Ship Street, Oxford.

1920.11.10 Two-pronged steel fork with cowhorn handle, English, XVIII cent.

1920.11.15-16 2 pairs of rudely made spectacles, English, early XIX cent.

1920.11.17 Pair of early tortoise-shell mounted eye-glasses with strongly bi-convex lenses, English.

1920.27.3 Toy whirling instrument (tin cylinder with long slit-like opening), spun whirled round in the air to imitate a singing bird, English, 1920.

1920.27.19 Roman Catholic rosary of coix lachryme seeds, 5 tens, 4 spacing ‘beads’ and terminal of 1+3+1 and crucifix. (bought in London).

1920.51.1 Paper towel, used on the S.E. & C. Railway as substitute for ordinary towel, obtained from the Dover to Victoria (London) boat train, 14th Sept. 1920.

He gave a total of 398 other artefacts from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, France, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Japan, Malawi, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Paraquay, Solomon Islands, Spain, Tanzania, Vanuatu, Zambia. These were donated between 1916 and 1931. Most (but not all) of them were collected in the field by Carline. For example, he remarks of 4 silver votive plaque obtained in Athens in a letter to Balfour in the Museum's related document file:

I am enclosing the modern Greek votive offerings that I promised to send you. I got them in a small shop either in or somewhere near what is called "shoe lane" in Athens. They were I think mostly sold in "silver" smiths. They were of course quite bright when I got them in Feb. 1926. [Letter dated 20 December 1927]

Further Reading

H. C. L. 'George Reginald Carline' Man vol. 33 (Mar 1933) p. 54

H. C. L. 'George Reginald Carline' Folklore Vol. 44, No. 1 (Mar., 1933), pp. 115-116

Anon. 'Mr G.R. Carline' Nature 21 January 1933 p. 86