Pitt-Rivers often exhibited artefacts from his founding and second collection at meetings of learned societies that he attended (as did other members their own objects). Papers in anthropological and archaeological journals had most often been read out at a prior meeting of the learned society in question before being revised and then printed. As can be seen from our bibliography, Pitt-Rivers published many journal papers during his career, and read most of them out beforehand. These talks were illustrated by the use of lecture aides like charts, and illustrations and by the display of objects. The following letter confirms that these 'exhibitions' were intended to 'jolly up' the reading of papers etc. which took place at the meetings and presumably provide a talking point for the members.

Will you be able to preside at our Meeting next Tuesday? If you can conveniently exhibit any recent acquisition I shall be very grateful, for I fear that our programme is but scantily filled, and that the evening will be tame unless we make an effort to enliven it by an exhibition. ...  [FW Rudler to Pitt-Rivers, 8 December 1882, L40 Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum Pitt-Rivers papers]

A comprehensive list of all the occasions upon which Pitt-Rivers exhibited objects at learned societies has not been compiled but it would be quite a long list as he often illustrated his talks not only with copious illustrations (presumably scaled up version of the illustrations which were later included in his published paper) but also at least one object. Here is a list of all the objects he exhibited at the Anthropological Institute [and the Ethnological Society and Anthropological Society of London before 1873] between 1843 and 1891.

Here is a document discussing an instance of him exhibiting at the Royal Archaeological Institute.

This was discussed by Gosden and Larson in 2007:

At an ordinary meeting of the Ethnological Society of London on 26 January 1869 Pitt Rivers (then known as Augustus Henry Lane Fox ...) exhibited and discussed two objects ... These objects ... represent something of Pitt Rivers's own interests and modes of presentation, as well as the diverse routes by which things made their way to him. He first considered a marble armlet from the Niger, obtained from Mr H. Warren Edwards, who was then His Majesty's Consul at Lukoja. Pitt Rivers described the armlet as follows: 'The object is of black marble, with white veins, it is 4 1/2 in. interior diameter, and 1 in. thick, flat on the inside, and rounded on the outside.' [Lane Fox 1869: 35] He then quoted a letter by Warren Edwards [who described how he had obtained the arm ornament] This simple object can be seen to be at the centre of a network of human relationships ... These relationships were re-presented by Pitt Rivers in London, and the centrepiece of his brief presentation was the marble armlet itself. Quite what interest his audience had in this object we cannot now know, but we can be sure that the object itself was present on the occasion of his talk. In presenting this object Pitt Rivers was also presenting himself as a man of far-flung and useful connections, who had an in-depth knowledge of the material culture of the world. The marble armlet later came to Oxford s part of Pitt Rivers's gift to the University in 1884. It was accessioned together with a number of other artefacts given to Pitt Rivers by Warren Edwards ... [A footnote gives the armlet's accession number as 1884.82.129]

Pitt-Rivers read out Warren Edward's letter, but we do not know what else he said about the armlet at the meeting. A brief physical description is given, but information regarding its provenance was not recorded. Warren Edwards apologized for not noting where the armlet had come from. These details were important, but attention was also focussed firmly on the object's physical qualities. Members of The Ethnological Society of London and their guests would probably have handled the object exhibited to them in the lecture room, where they may well have been surrounded by other objects belonging to the Society on permanent display. [Footnote: The Ethnological Society had established a 'Museum of Crania' by the 1850s, and is likely to haves owned other ethnographic artefacts (see Stocking 1971a: 374)] The lack of contextual information did not prevent Pitt Rivers exhibiting and discussing the armlet, so that we can surmise that the object itself had sufficient presence and qualities to speak for itself, even if the message then imparted was lost. Perhaps it was displayed as something of a curiosity, a witness to exotic adventures in distant lands, and in this sense the mystery surrounding its origins must have been part of its allure.

The other object presented and discussed on this occasion was bipartite. It was partly composed of a bronze spearhead with a gold ferrule, but also a shaft of 'bog oak' that caused much discussion. It was found, purportedly , in a peat bog at Lough Gur, County Limerick, where many other prehistoric artefacts had been found. It came to Pitt Rivers through a brief chain of connections. ... Pitt Rivers then described the leaf-shaped spear, concentrating on the ferrule and its gold ornament. What concerned him most, however, was whether the wooden shaft was original. ... Pitt Rivers went to considerable lengths to establish the spear's authenticity. ... This [evidence] and the opinions of other learned scholars, encouraged Pitt Rivers to present the object as, 'the first example on record of a bronze spear from Ireland or England inlaid with gold'. A detailed description was given of the object, its size, shape, decoration, and some physical evidence for how it had been made, but there was, apparently, no discussion of the kind of community that might have made this object or what it might have been used for. Instead the process of verification and physical description overwhelmed the broader social and historical implications of the artefact. The object itself was enough to warrant attention without recourse to its social history. ... [this spear is now in the PRM, Oxford, 1884.119.348]

The mid-nineteenth century world of anthropology cohered around ethnographic objects to a far greater extent than is common today. Scholarly societies provided both a physical and social space in which like-minded enthusiasts could meet, discuss, and formulate opinions about the wider world. ... Exhibits of objects frequently accompanied lectures at such meetings well into the twentieth century ... [2007: 39-43]

AP, May, September 2011

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