Two Pitt-Rivers Museums

Poster explaining displays, PRM Oxford

As is explained elsewhere on this site the Pitt Rivers Museum contains the founding collection put together by Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers and donated in 1884 to the University of Oxford. After 1884, Pitt-Rivers' involvement in the Museum was very slight and care of his founding collection, and the many thousands of objects from other donors which started to be accessioned by the museum, devolved to staff at the Museum. At some point during the first fifty years or so of its existence the Pitt Rivers Museum staff caused the top poster to be created and displayed in the Museum (a copy of this poster is held in the Museum's manuscript records). This introduces the visitor to the displays and suggests ways of thinking about the artefacts that are shown. It is not known when this notice was written, it might even date from Augustus Pitt-Rivers' time, but it seems more likely that it was written by Henry Balfour, the Pitt Rivers Museum's curator after 1884.

An alternative view is given in our second image. This notice was prepared by George Pitt-Rivers, Augustus Pitt-Rivers' grandson, after 1934 when he was in charge of Pitt-Rivers' private museum in Farnham, Dorset. This museum displayed Pitt-Rivers' second collection, that amassed between 1880 and 1900. It is interesting to compare and contrast these two views of what anthropological and archaeological displays might show you. Both of these notices might have been written during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and show the way that the world views and politics of that time affected even the way that museum displays were thought about. My thanks to Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum who hold a copy of the Farnham Museum notice for allowing me to use this image.

AP, 2010.

Notice displayed in Farnham Museum during Captain Pitt-Rivers time [S&SW Museum]

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