E.B. Tylor [1998.267.88]

This account is the response that Tylor gave when Pitt-Rivers gave a talk to the Society of Arts about Typological Museums.

‘Dr E.B. TYLOR, F.R.S., said he could not add anything to the excellent account General Pitt-Rivers had given of his system of arranging museums, but he felt that the greatest of these museums, which would mark itself in no insignificant way on the present generation, ought not to be described without someone from the University of Oxford being present to bear testimony to the importance of the educational system it represented. Before this Oxford Museum was established, it was usual to look upon a museum as an assemblage of curiosities, which had to be pointed out and explained to the  visitor with great care; otherwise even the most illustrative  cases would make but very little impression on the ordinary untrained  spectator. But the Pitt-Rivers Museum affected the mind of the  intelligent stranger quite differently. There was no trouble to  explain the system upon which it was worked. There might be some little trouble, even with the aid of good illustrations when, as on the present occasion, the actual specimens were not on view; but, when they were properly arranged, the slightest hint was sufficient to convey to the intelligent mind what they were there  for; and then they told their own story. Very recently, there  had been a good example of how it was educating the world at large. It often happened that a series might be made purely theoretical,  by putting in their order a number of specimens which referred  to one another more or less distinctively, thus showing where  the curve of development had probably passed; but yet important  links were often wanting, and the visitor went away possessed  with the desire to find those links and present them to the Museum. Only a few weeks ago, they thus acquired a much desired link in  the history of stringed instruments. The late Mr. Carl Engel suggested  that the strung bow must have been the origin of the whole series of stringed instruments, whether pianoforte, violin, or guitar. This view was proved to be correct when the instruments were arranged  in a series, beginning with a strung bow. The difficulty, however, was to get the starting point - an authentic bow capable of being  used both for hunting and twanging. One people, who were described  as using the bow for this double purpose, were the Damaras; it was said that the hunter shot game with his bow during the day, and when he came home, sat by the fire and amused himself by twanging the string. Three or four weeks ago Miss Lloyd, who had spent some time in South Africa, sent them one of these bows, and it now stood at the head of the series of stringed instruments. He believed the idea of General Pitt-Rivers was destined to bear good fruit on the actual development of mankind. It had dissipate  some notions as to the wonderful originality of early inventions, which, when seen in connection with what had gone before, were found to be the natural product of a mind perhaps a little in advance of its fellows, but still in the main not so far removed from them.’ [Tylor speaking at the Society of Arts fifth ordinary meeting on Wednesday, December 16, 1891]

See here for a full version of Pitt-Rivers' paper.

AP, transcribed 2010.

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