Taken from 'Typological Museums, as exemplified by the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Oxford, and his provincial museum at Farnham, Dorset', Journal of the Society of Arts, Dec 18, 1891 pp. 115-122

Farnham Museum, Plate from 1894 Guide

From page 119 and on

'... In the meantime, however, I have formed another museum, which, although it is a provincial one, is in some respects better than the first [at Oxford] because such series as it contains are more fully represented. ... I have often observed that a little knowledge of the subject is necessary to create an interest. I have often noticed that visitors to our larger museums will wander listlessly until they come upon something they understand a little about. Then they open their eyes and prick up their ears. It is interesting to them to compare the products of other countries, and people, in those particular branches of industry that they are familiar with. A local museum should, therefore, contain a good historical series of the prevailing manufactures or industry of the locality. Acting on this principle, it appeared to me that in a rural district, sparsely inhabited, with scattered agricultural villages, and ten miles from every town and railway station, the chief feature of the collection should be agriculture and peasant handicraft. [Note: The population of Farnham and the neighbouring parishes is:- Farnham, 301; Handley, 868; Tollard Royal, 247] I cannot convey my views on provincial museums better than by describing my own museum, because it has been collected from the first on a definite system, and has undoubtedly been a great success.

No. 1 Room, 20 feet by 13, contains pottery, costumes, personal ornaments, now in use by peasants in Germany, France, Spain, and other nations. Some of these are of archaic design, and are probably survivals. The 2nd room, 19 feet by 14, contains carvings by Brittany peasants, chiefly of the 17th century; French pottery in present use, and village implements of various kinds. The 3rd room, 18 feet by 13, is devoted to a series of tools, household utensils, cooking appliances, &c., of different periods. The 4th Room, 24 feet by 14, has an additional series of country tools, and here commences a general series,  illustrating the history of pottery, which is continued in Rooms 5 and 6, and includes a sufficient number of specimens of each division to represent their kind, viz:- Ancient British, Silesian bronze age, Etruscan, Egyptian, Swiss Lakes, Cyprian, Greek, Roman, Saxon, Norman, Mediaeval, English toft ware, English salt-glaze, Staffordshire, and other Old English wares, Scotch pottery, German, French, Swiss, Spanish, Italian, Persian, Anatolian, Japanese, Chinese, Moorish, Peruvian, Mexican. Then follows similar specimens of glass and enamels from different countries. Another general series, not yet arranged, will be devoted to sculpture and modelling. In the 5th and 6th Rooms are models of excavations made by me in the locality, the relics from which are arranged in the adjoining cases. These are available for archaeologists who may visit the district to see what it contains of local interest. Other models of ancient monuments, 95 in all, have been made under my supervision by my archaeological staff, three to four in number, who are constantly engaged upon the work. These models certainly form the chief feature of the museum, and they are unique. The 6th room, 62 feet by 19 1/2, contains also a general series of of implements of the palaeolithic, neolithic, and bronze periods, iron age, Roman, Egyptian, and mediaeval periods. The 7th room, 81 feet by 24, is only in process of building. The 8th Room, 85 feet by 18, is devoted to agricultural implements and appliances, and contains spades and agricultural tools of all kinds, showing the survival of the Roman wooden iron-edged spade in several parts of Europe; querns and grain rubbers, some of which are in present use; a Norse mill, showing the earliest application of water power to the quern; grinding and winnowing machines; some models of crofters' cottages; a series of models showing the varieties of ploughs in present use in different countries; country carts, explained in the same manner by means of models; a series showing the development of locks and keys; a series of crates carried by country women of different countries on the shoulder, and collected expressly to show the women of my district how little they resemble the beasts of burden they might have been if they had been bred elsewhere. All these things are well ticketed, but an explanatory catalogue has yet to follow.

It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that the agricultural labourer can be reached by museums alone. Hodge, though better off than he has ever been before, is in a lower condition, morally and mentally, than at any previous period. He is too incessantly plied with pernicious doctrines to have a soule for anything above party politics. It is to the larger and smaller tradesmen in the towns and villages that such things as museums appeal, and, moreover, they must be supplemented by other inducements to make them attractive. Within a short distance of the museum, I have formed a recreation ground, called the Larmer Grounds, where my private band plays every Sunday in the summer months from three to five. This ground was attended during the last year by 16,839 persons from the neighbouring towns and villages. Not far off is an old house, formerly a hunting box of King John, which is open to the public, and were any amount of bread and butter, tea and buns can be obtained at slight cost. This during the last year drew 4,346 persons. The visitors to the museum in the same year amounted to 7,000 persons, [Note: This is the ordinary number of visitors, and does not include lectures or other meetings] and the numbers of all three places have been increasing year after year. The people come from a radius of 20 miles round, and it has been very successful, in so far as the number of visitors is concerned. I have built a small Museum Hotel, at which visitors to the locality can put up, and which has first-class accommodation. Another, called King John's Hotel, has sprung up in an adjoining village. It has become the headquarters of a local bicycle club, which is named after the place. Bicycling is an institution that must not be overlooked by any project for the improvement of the masses. The enormous distances bicyclists can go by road, especially on a Sunday, has rendered the populations of country districts locomotive to an extent that has never been known before. Fifty or sixty bicycles are frequently seen at my Sunday meetings at the Larmer grounds, which average between 600 to a 1,000 people; and the church on Sundays is crowded.

It is a mistake to suppose that the country towns are the best localities for such museums. Townspeople have other things to do than to visit the museum, which they can see every day, and which soon begins to pall upon them. The visitors from the country to the towns generally go there for business purposes, and have no time for museums. In the town of Dorchester, in which there is a museum equal in size to mine, and scarcely less attractive, I found that the attendance was only 2,826 during the year 1888, as against 7000 at my museum in 1891. The outing is in itself an important accessory in a visit to a country museum. A pretty country, a pleasant drive in their country carts, an attractive pleasure ground, a good band, and lastly a museum, are the means which I have found successful, and which I am justified in recommending to those who wish to draw the people out of the towns into the country. But I do not wish to infer that I think any permanent good can be done in this way at the present time. Against agricultural depression, caused by foreign competition, it is impossible to contend. ...

Public attention has of late been drawn a good deal to the advantages of museums in the Press. I am not myself so hopeful of the result as would induce me to devote the time and attention to the subject that I have done, had it not been to me, for many years, a hobby and an amusement. If no more good came of it than to create other interests, which would draw men's minds away from politics, that greatest of all curses in a country district, good would be done. If only a more scientific knowledge of the arts of life, and of the laws of nature affecting the development of those industries by which the working classes gain their living, the results would be beneficial. I have already hinted my belief that, by analogy, museums might be made the means of inculcating sounder views on social questions, and that they afford the only opening available to people who have so little leisure time for study.

Whether or not my more ambitious scheme for a Typological Museum fails to be realised, at any rate my Provincial Museum may be claimed to be a success, judging by the constantly increasinng numbers that are found to visit it, and that in a district which, at first sight, appeared very unpromising.


At the conclusion of the paper, General Pitt-Rivers exhibited and described a number of diagrams illustrative of his collection. ...

See here for Pitt-Rivers views on typological museums and here on earlier displays in London and Oxford

Transcribed by AP in June 2010 as part of the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project.

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