Blackmore Museum, from Society of Antiquares 'Making History...Wiltshire' website [copyright S&SWM]

This is a transcription of P142d, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum's Pitt-Rivers papers. This is a typed version of a lecture given by Pitt-Rivers at the Blackmore Museum, Salisbury. Adrian Green, Director of the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum (the successor museum to the Blackmore) has ascertained that the annual report for 1889-90 for the Museum confirms that Pitt-Rivers gave this lecture in that year.

According to Michael Thompson's catalogue entry his version was never published but it is very similar to the lecture given to the Society of Arts in 1891, and later published as 'Typological Museums, as exemplified by the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford and his provincial museum at Farnham, Dorset', Journal of the Society of Arts, XL (1892) pp 115-122. However, because Pitt-Rivers dwells on the history of his own collection, this talk has many of its own merits. This version of the four available in P142 appears to be the final draft, the one that we have to assume was closest to the one actually delivered at the Blackmore Museum.

The illustration of Blackmore Museum shown here shows Edward Thomas Stevens in the museum, our thanks to Adrian for permission to use the image and the above information. Another view of the museum is given here.

On the Uses and Arrangement of Arts Museums

Illustrated by series from the Pitt-Rivers Museums at Oxford and Farnham, Dorset

My object in this lecture is to express my views upon the uses and arrangement of Museums, a subject that has engaged my attention for nearly 40 years. The fact that this Town, through the munificence of the late Mr. Blackmore and Dr. Blackmore, possesses one of the best Local Museums in the Country, will have prepared the ground for me, if I am fortunate enough to be able to convey to you any new ideas upon a subject, which the existence of the valuable Institution, in which I am addressing you, must have already made you tolerably familiar [insert] with [end insert].

The importance of providing increased means of education for the people, is at the present time admitted on all sides. The old maxim that "A little learning is a dangerous thing" has been superseded by the saying that "A little learning is better than none at all". Yet both aphorisms have an element of truth in them. It is not so much because it is little, as because the little learning is so often superficial and false that it becomes dangerous. The power of reading and writing, which is now so widely generally diffused throughout the country, though absolutely necessary for education of any kind, nevertheless greatly facilitates the capacity for acquiring false notions upon abstruse subjects, which nothing short of diligent study will suffice to form sound opinions upon. Increased facilities for cheap printing grow upon us in an accelerating ratio, and supply us with a mass of rubbish that is more accessible to the general public, than good sense. The greater difference which we may observe, is at the present time so generally paid to sentiment, as opposed to reason, must be influenced greatly by the abundance of trashy literature, in the way of fiction, [insert] appealing to the emotions [end insert] that is brought into the world. The want of thoroughness, that is so characteristic of our age, [insert] at least I think so [end insert] cannot fail to be engendered by the cheap and wholesale way in which opinions upon all subjects are supplied to the community, without entailing upon individuals, the trouble of forming those opinions for themselves, by study and attention. Above all I think, that all the leveling [sic] down processes, that are going on so rapidly around us, are brought continuously to the comprehension of the multitude through the daily press, whilst the building up processes in the Arts and Sciences, in Laws and Institutions, in Society, and in Life itself, are less easy to access. Knowledge upon this progressive aspect of the world's history can be most accurately and quickly supplied by means of Museums.

In a well-arranged Museum, the history of any material Art or Industry, or the development of any species of animal in Natural History, or of Man himself, can be displayed by means of objects arranged is [sic - in] sequence, in such a manner that the successive changes that have taken place in the perfecting of them, can be brought to the knowledge of the student in a short time. By becoming acquainted with the history of material and visible objects, acquired in this way, a clue is afforded to the development of other Arts, Institutions and Customs of mankind, in which the successive ideas, that have followed each other, not having been embodied in material forms, cannot be so displayed, and the History of which consequently, cannot be attained without diligent research and book-learning. By this, is afforded, a correct and easy means of learning History, and by shewing that all the most useful Arts and Institution, that exist amongst us at the present time, are the growth of ages; by contrasting the slow and laborious processes of their development, with the facility with which they are destroyed, the public, the less-informed portion of the public that is, may gradually acquire greater respect for Antiquity, and become in some measure disabused of that strong desire to break rudely with the past, which is so often found amongst the half-educated classes of our time. The education afforded by Museums is on this account eminently progressive and conservative, using that term in its general, and not in its political sense.

We must also bear in mind that the constantly increasing complexity of our civilization entails conditions that are not condusive [sic] to general and broad, as distinct from special and narrow knowledge. In the education of young men and women, the necessity for commencing early, the special studies of their profession, in order to obtain a good start in the race for advancement, forces itself more and more every day on the attention of those who have charge of them. This of course curtails the time available for general education, whilst at the same time the subjects that ought to be included under the head of a liberal education are themselves constantly increasing in number and complexity. We cannot therefore fail to become impressed with the importance of imparting general knowledge upon all subjects, in such a manner that those who run may read, and read correctly. The Art of Drawing, which is now very properly becoming a compulsory part of even the most elementary education, by training the eye to a correct appreciation of form, will generally [insert] greatly [end insert] increase the capacity of our children for profiting by the kind of instruction that Museums are capable of affording.

These and other considerations lead me to the conviction that Museums are destined to play an important part [insert] in [end insert] the [insert] education of [sic][end insert] future.

We need not therefore be surprised to learn that the subject has lately engaged the attention of scientific men, and has been made the subject of Presidential Addresses to learned bodies. I shall not quote largely from these sources, nor shall I enter into the important questions of State supported or Rate supported Museums. The remarks which I shall offer are the result of many years experience as a collector, and of the creation of two Museums based upon the principles that I advocate. I shall tell you in the first place what I think a Museum ought to be, and then I shall illustrate my remarks by a description of one or two series, taken either from my Museum at Oxford, or the one in the village at Farnham, Dorset. I shall also confine my observations to the department of Arts, as my experience lies chiefly in that direction, although the same principles of arrangement apply [insert] equally [end insert] to it [insert],[end insert] and to Natural History Collections.

My first initiation into the subject of Arts Collections was brought about in a practical way. In the years 1851-1852, I was employed as a Military Officer on the Sub-Committee of Small Arms at Woolwich, and in 1853, as the first Chief Instructor of Musketry at Hythe, on the formation of that establishment by Lord Harding. My duties amongst others, consisted in making experiments with all the new inventions both British and Foreign, that were submitted to Government for the improvement, or rather I should say at that time, the first introduction of the Rifle Musket. In the course of these investigations, I was led to observe how very slow and gradual the steps of improvement were, and how very slightly the inventions of one person differed from those of another. In 1858 I read a Paper at the Royal United Service Institution, in which I gave an account of the development of ideas upon the subject, during the time that I had engaged in the manner I have mentioned. The Paper gave offence at the time to some of the Inventors, most of whom either supposed themselves, or wished it to be supposed by others, that their inventions sprang full-blown out of their inner consciousness, and were independent of anything that had gone before. The Collection of Rifles that I made at that time, ultimately expanded into a Museum of Savage and Barbarous Weapons, and later on, was made to include various other Arts, such as Ship-building, Textile Fabrics, Pottery and substitutes for Pottery, Dress, Tools, Personal Ornament, and several series illustrating the development of Ornamental Patterns. To which was added a series of Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age implements, in all of which I endeavoured to collect only specimens which represented links in the development of the several Arts. This Collection was exhibited at Bethnal Green for several years, and afterwards at South Kensington, where it formed part of what was called, an Educational Series. I wrote a descriptive Catalogue of the portion of the Museum relating to Arms, which went through two editions, and this would have been extended had not illness intervened to prevent my working for some years. I also published three lectures on the development of Primitive Weapons, which were read at the Royal United Service Institution in 1867-8-9.

The necessity for an Educational Museum in London arose from the fact that neither the British Museum, nor the South Kensington Museum in London properly fulfilled that function. The British Museum [insert],[end insert] having grown originally out of Sir Hans Sloane's Collection, accumulated an immense mass of valuable objects, at a time when historical sequence was little thought of or understood, at a time in fact, when it would not have been possible to select from amongst the multitude of miscellaneous specimens, presented to the Museum, those only which would serve the purpose of instruction. In this way, there has grown up at Bloomsbury, a gigantic store of Antiquities and Natural History Specimens, which is of immense value as a Museum for Research, for those who have already acquired a competent knowledge of the subject they are studying, and who know what to look for, but utterly valueless as a Museum for Education, for those Members of the General Public, who consult it with a view to acquire the first rudiments of knowledge. The same applies to the Collections at South Kensington, which are also an accumulation of rare and costly treasures in Art, but generally without historical arrangement, and consequently ill-adapted to the requirements of the outside Public. In the remarks that I shall make upon this subject, it must be understood that I intend no disparagement to the Officers of either of those Establishments. They are Gentlemen of recognised ability and knowledge, and some of them are my personal friends. My point is that these Museums are ill-adapted to the education of those who visit them, and that the arrangement is, of necessity, unsuited to that purpose. I remember a happy expression, made use of by a friend of mine who was connected with the South Kensington Department, to whom I had complained of the insufficiency of the arrangement. "Oh! dont you know", he said, "that is our kaleidoscope arrangement.""What do you mean by a kaleidoscope arrangement"? I said. "Well, every week or fortnight, or at stated periods, we shift all the things in all the cases. Things that are at the top, we put at the bottom, things that are in the middle, we put on one side, so that the cases present a totally different appearance, and the Public think each time they come that it is all new, and come again, and that is the way we keep the turnstile going at the door." But it is not enough to keep the turnstile going. Even the kaleidoscope will pall upon the empty-headed gazer in time. What we want, is to educate our Lords and Masters, the newly enfranchised Public, to make them, as well acquainted as time will admit with every rung of the ladder by which we have ascended to our present level in the Arts and Sciences, and by which we hope to rise still higher, and to make them think twice before they heedlessly kick it away in the prosecution of an iconoclastic crusade.

The establishment of an Educational Series at South Kensington, apart from the Museum of Art Treasures, was therefore a step in the right direction. It failed, in my opinion, because it was carried out upon wrong principles. Apart from my own developmental series, which may be considered to be part of it, few, if any of the Collections were arranged in sequence. There was a valuable Collection of beautiful Models of Ships, which still exists, but devoid of historical arrangement, in which respect, it was little better than the Museum at Greenwich, which for a great Naval, and Mercantile Nation like ours, is a wretched affair. There was a Collection of Models of Steam Engines and of originals, including some of the well-known historical specimens, but there was no attempt to shew the history of the Steam Engine by a display of connecting links. There was a Collection of Electrical Telegraph Appliances, but quite inadequate to explain the order in which the several inventions arose. There were numerous cases full of Technical Appliances and Scientific Instruments, all very necessary to practical instruction, but quite insufficient of themselves, and without explanatory lectures, to convey instruction to visitors, whose only means of acquiring knowledge was by passing from case to case.

In order to impart instruction satisfactorily by an Exhibition of Objects, it is necessary that the objects should be presented to the student in such a way, as to build up in his mind, by a mere examination of them, and of the tickets attached to them, an orderly succession of ideas. And the order in which those ideas should be conveyed to him, must necessarily be that in which they occurred to the successive Inventors of the Objects exhibited. Hence the historical arrangement is the best and only arrangement for educational purposes.

My Museum remained at Bethnal Green and South Kensington for 9 years, and at the end of that time, being in bad health and not supposing that I should be able to continue the management of it much longer; being anxious to find a home for it, and having no house room for so large a Collection, as it had become, I offered to present it to the Government, on the understanding that it should form the nucleus of an Educational Museum, and hoping that, with the advantage of Government Patronage, it would develop rapidly. A very competent Committee, consisting of several prominent Scientific Men, was appointed to consider the proposal, and the Committee reported in favour of accepting it. But other influences were at work to frustrate the design. The officers of the British Museum had lately devoted much attention to their Ethnographical Department. The Christy Collection had been added to the Ethnographical Collection, previously existing in the Museum, and the whole had been, or was about to be, united at Bloomsbury. It is easy to understand that they viewed with disfavour the rise of a separate Museum which, if not with less space, at any rate with far less costly materials, would very soon, by reason of its adaptability to the purposes of Public Instruction, become a very much more popular Institution. The Officers at Bloomsbury had long been at war with South Kensington, on account of their encroachment upon what they regarded as their own domain. After some delay, and a good deal of difference of opinion, from those who had really mastered all the bearings of the case, they persuaded the Government to reject the offer, on the grounds, as stated to me, that it was not desirable to have two separate Ethnographical Museums in London.

This decision completely ignored, or kept in the back-ground, the true grounds on which the proposal had been made by me, and adopted by the Committee, viz., that, for the purposes of research on the one hand, and education on the other hand, two Museums arranged upon entirely different principles are requisite. I certainly do not regard the decision come to on that occasion as being at all likely to be final. The importance of the principles involved is certain to force itself, and is in fact at the present time every day forcing itself more and more upon Public attention, and it will, I think, undoubtedly, before long, arrive at that well-known phase in the development of all new ideas, in which it is commonly asserted that everyone always knew it to be the right thing. Efforts have been made to make the British Museum available as a means of education, by the establishment of lectures, to a limited number of persons, and by the appointment of Demonstrators, one of whom is a gentleman, who has been trained in my Museum as the Curator of it, since it was presented to Oxford.* But the Constitution and the Antecedents of the British Museum preclude the possibility of its ever becoming, in my opinion, what is the great desideratum of our age, a Museum for the rapid education of the masses that have no time for detailed study. In order to do this it would be necessary to eliminate two-thirds, if not more, of the present Collections, and stow them away for reference for the use of Savants. This would entirely spoil the British Museum as a Museum of Research, whilst at the same time it would but ill-fulfil the function of an Educational Museum.

When I consider that a man of the calibre of Mr. Herbert Spencer failed to carry out an organized system for the Collection of Anthropological Evidence, which he had initiated at great trouble and cost, because he could find no supporters for the undertaking, I see no cause for chagrin [insert] reason to feel surprised [end insert] that a humble individual like myself should have failed to overcome the Vis inertiae of long established Institutions, or to enlist the sympathy of the British Government, so proverbially slow in appreciating the requirements of Science. I have cause rather for complacency [insert] satisfaction [end insert] in having been the first to moot the subject, with sufficient weight of evidence in its favour to admit of its being seriously considered, and I shall wait with optimism [insert] look forward to [end insert] the time when, if I live long enough, I shall probably see it adopted.

My friend Professor Rolleston, before his death, had often expressed a wish that my Museum should find a home at Oxford, and as his successors expressed the same wish, I ultimately presented it to that University, on the understanding, confirmed by a legal agreement, that it was to be known, together with the additions that might afterwards be made to it, as the Pitt-Rivers Collection. The University voted £10,000 for a building to contain it, and it is now under the charge of Dr. E.B. Tylor, the well-known Anthropologist. At the meeting of the British Association at Bath in 1888, I renewed my advocacy of [insert] proposal for [end insert] a separate educational Museum in London, in my Address, as President of the Anthropological Section, which was again well received by the press and by the Members of the Association. Subsequently, at the meeting at Newcastle last year, Professor Flower, as President of the Association, devoted the greater part of his Address to the same subject, bringing the weight of his experience as Chief of the Natural History Museum at South Kensington to bear upon his recommendations.

In order to shew how entirely Professor Flower agrees with my views on the subject, I cannot do better than quote a few sentences from his address.- "It cannot be too often repeated that the real objects of forming collections are two, which are quite distinct, and sometimes even conflicting. The first is to advance or increase the knowledge of some given subject. This is generally the motive of the individual collector, whose experience shews him the vast assistance in forming definite ideas in any line of research in which he may be occupied, that may be derived from having the materials for its study at its own command, to hold and to handle, to examine and compare, to take up and lay aside whenever the favourable moment occurs to do so. Such collections are, however, only for the advanced student, the man who has already become acquainted with the elements of his science, and is in a position, by his knowledge, and training, to take advantage of such material, to carry on the subject to a point beyond that at which he takes it up. But there is another and far larger class to whom Museums are, or should be, a powerful means of aid in acquiring knowledge. I refer to the much more numerous class, which it may be hoped, will year by year bear a greater relative proportion to the general population of the country, who, without having the time, the opportunities, or the abilities to make a profound study of any branch of Science, yet take a general interest in its progress, and wish to, possess some knowledge of the world around them and of the principal facts ascertained with regard to it. For such persons Museums may be, when well organised and arranged, of benefit to a degree that at present can scarcely be realised. To diffuse knowledge among persons of this class is the second of the two purposes of Museums of which I have spoken. I believe that the main cause of what may be fairly termed the failure of the majority of Museums - especially Museums of Natural History - to perform the functions that might legitimately be expected of them, is that they nearly always confound together the two distinct objects which they may fulfil, and by attempting to combine both in the same exhibition, practically accomplish neither. In accordance with which of those two objects, which may be briefly called "research" and "instruction" is the main end of the Museum, so should the whole be primarily arranged."

I think that no better answer could be given to the plea that it is not desirable to have two Museums in the same place, than these remarks, which I have quoted from the Address of Professor Flower, who is himself a British Museum Officer, although at the head of an independent Department of it.

Since presenting my Collection to Oxford, finding myself on my legs again, and capable of work to an extent I had never anticipated, and thinking that possibly my Oxford Collection might not develop exactly in the way I desired, I have formed another Collection, which I have located in the Village of Farnham, Dorset, and which, though not at all equal in extent, to the one now at Oxford, will probably form the nucleus of a new Museum which may perhaps ultimately be presented to some other place, whilst at the same time it serves the distinctly different function of a Local Museum for the district in which it is situated. I exhibit a Plan of this establishment. One room 30 feet by 16 feet, and part of another room is devoted to [insert] Local [end insert] Antiquities, and includes Models to scale, of two Romano-British Villages in the neighbourhood, that I have excavated. Another Model represents the excavations recently conducted at Woodyates and in Wansdyke. There are also Models of some Barrows in the vicinity, whilst the Antiquities from all these several places are exhibited in cases surrounding the Models so that the enquirer can ascertain for himself the exact spot in which each object was found. This part of the Museum will serve the function of a Museum of Research for Archaeologists, who may visit the neighbourhood, and who wish to know what it contains and to see the Antiquities that have been found in the District. The rest of the Museum must be regarded as the commencement of an educational series, though not as yet fulfilling that function to the extent that I hope it will do ultimately. It occupies 6 rooms one of which is 84 feet by 16 feet, and consists of a Collection of the Pottery of different Nations, Savage, Barbarous, and Modern, a Collection of Peasant Carvings, Household Appliances, a series of Agricultural Tools, Ancient and Modern, a collection [insert] series [end insert] shewing the derivation of our modern system of Roofing from the Tegulae and Imbrices of the Romans, a series of Models illustrating the history of the plough, another exhibiting the development of Country Carts, and a Collection of Ancient and Modern Door Locks shewing the gradual development of their forms, about which I have published a separate treatise. During the last year it was shown, by the Visitor's Book that from September 1888 to September 1889, it was visited by 6,152 persons, which considering that it is 10 miles distant from every Town and Railway Station, and that it is situated in a sparsely populated, agricultural District, is a larger number than I ever expected, and shews that it is already serving a useful purpose.

In making these Collections, I have been guided by the principle, that in a purely agricultural District, the several subjects represented in the Museum, should have some relation either to Agriculture, or the matters connected with Peasant life. I have sometimes noticed, that in Museums in large Towns and elsewhere, the visitors will often wander listlessly through the galleries, without taking much notice, until they come to something that they understand a little about. Then their interest commences, and they appear anxious to improve their knowledge of the subject, that has attracted their notice. I do not mean to infer that all agricultural people are incapable of paying attention to anything but their own calling, but as a rule their interest will be more keenly excited by subjects that they are more or less familiar with. A friend of mine was in the habit of relating the following story, which has a strong bearing on this particular phase of the human mind that I am speaking about. Living in the country and being of a philanthropic disposition, he was anxious to improve the minds of his neighbouring villagers by means of lectures. He therefore engaged the services of a scientific gentleman from London who came down and delivered three lectures in the village schoolroom upon Optics. The audience appeared pleased, and the lecturer himself especially so, at the opportunity afforded him of displaying his knowledge before an apparently appreciating assembly. At the end of the third lecture, it was thought proper to ask one of the most well-to-do Farmers in the room to return thanks to the lecturer. The Farmer having accepted the suggestion, that he should be the spokesman of the party rose and addressed the Meeting in thiswise. "I've been a asked to return thanks to the gentleman for his extremely interesting lecture, and I'm sure wes all extremely obliged to him, I avent myself eard all on em, but only this ere last one, because business is business and times is bad, but I am much obliged to the gentleman for what I have heard. It is'nt [sic] often that the like of we, has the opportunity of hearing an interesting discourse the like of this ere. I should be sorry to say anything as seems like finding fault, as the saying uz, and there arent no call for it neither, but there's only one remark that I should like to make to the gentleman, as a practical man, and that is, I eared un call un Op-sticks, now ere abouts, leastwise in Kent, we allers calls un Op-poles and not Op-sticks." ** No doubt the Lecturer's countenance must have fallen upon hearing this Address, and it was certainly not encouraging, but we may learn from it that, whether the case of lectures or Museums, any one who makes the mistake of shooting over the heads of the people he wishes to instruct is bound to miss his mark. Evolution is the order of all nature, and applies equally to the mode of imparting instruction. Every new idea, in order to be well understood must be built upon a carefully prepared foundation.

Having now explained my views upon the general question, I will illustrate them by means of one or two series taken from my Museums at Oxford or Farnham. The object as has already been explained is to trace the history of the Arts by means of specimens shewing links of improvement. Where the history of the Art or Invention is known, as in the case of those, which were introduced in historic times, the order of arrangement is comparatively easy. The only difficulty is in obtaining specimens of branch varieties or links of connection, which lasted only a short time, and then became obsolete. Take the case of Mr. Edison's inventions for example. Mr. Edison is of course a man of very remarkable inventive genius, but if we were to set down as his own, all that appeared in his name, we might well suppose him to be superhuman. I have lately had an opportunity of making enquiries about his establishment, from a person who is well acquainted with it, and I find that Edison is in fact the name of a great inventing company. *** Young men who have ideas for the improvement of any particular machine, are taken into partnership, or engaged upon trial, and they are glad, for the sake of his patronage, and the pecuniary advantages accruing from it, to sacrifice their personality. If the design succeeds, or is perfected in the establishment, it comes out under the name of Edison. I am told that since the Phonograph was exhibited at Bath in 1888, no less than five great improvements have been effected, superseding the earlier ones, and that some of the older contrivances are now lying by, disregarded and getting rusty, together with many minor improvements, which have contributed to the perfection of the mechanism. It should be the object of a good Museum, to rescue from oblivion all these connecting links, in this and a hundred other crafts and industries, that are growing up in the world. We should then be able to realise what the term "Evolution" really means, as applied to the Arts of life, and how closely analagous [sic] it is to the development of species, and varieties in Natural History. In both the stages of progression are equally slow and gradual. In both, varieties diverge and branch out in a tree-like form. Both are subject to the great law of the survival of the fittest, as revealed to mankind by the great genius of Darwin. In both we have the same difficulty of reconstructing the entire developmental series by the insertion of missing links. In both we have to distinguish forms which are homogenistic from those which are homoplastic. But here the analogy ends. The forms of nature beget and reproduce one another. Those of the Arts are merely the outward and visible signs of developments, that take place in the mind of Man; ideas embodied in material forms, so that they can be handled and arranged in sequence; but the study of them is essentially a psychological study.

In the case of pre-historic Arts, or the Arts of Savages, that have no written records, the only way is to collect specimens of the different varieties of the same Arts, such as tools, weapons, utensils of different kinds, ornamental patterns and so forth, and arrange them according to their affinities, guided by the analogy of known Arts and Sequences. But here we are met with a difficulty, which always entails caution in determining the order to be followed in the arrangement of the specimens. In the Arts as in all Nature, development and decay go hand in hand. Whilst as a rule we may be certain that the simpler forms preceded the more complex ones, on the other hand in the decay of any Art, or at a time when it is being superseded by other more useful contrivances, the older forms are liable to become scamped, less trouble is taken about them, and they degenerate into ruder shapes. There are also phases in which simplicity is the object sought for by the artisan, who has to eliminate extraneous complexity, that has been introduced at an earlier period of development, and found combersome. The only way in such cases is to notice the workmanship: as a rule the most advanced forms exhibit the best workmanship, as in the case of Flint Implements for example, of which such an excellent series is exhibited in the Blackmore Museum, and in which the skill, shown during the best periods, far exceeds what is seen, either in the decay, or in the infancy of the Art, and nearly all Art has its best period. Geological Sequence, and the Sequence of Artificial Deposits, also come in to determine the place of any objects found in them, as for instance in the case of Ramparts, or the silting of Ditches, which are very conclusive in determining Sequence, but very delusive as regards the duration of the periods on account of the great difference in the time, that the deposits take to accumulate. In short nearly every problem, which puzzles the Geologist or the Naturalist, also puzzles the scientific student of the Arts of life.

My illustrations are taken nearly at hap-hazard, for almost any Art, when carefully studied, might serve the same purpose, and it must be understood that I shall only review them in a very cursory manner, as my object is, not to lecture on the several Arts, but merely to use them, as examples of the order, that may be established in the arrangement of Museums. I shall therefore trot them past, in double time, and leave you to inspect them more carefully at your leisure, if you should be so disposed.

Commencing with the branch, which as I have said was the first to engage my attention, viz, the History of the Rifle. The earliest Fire-Arms were of course Smooth-bore Cannon and Muskets. The ball was of necessity much smaller than the bore of the weapon, to allow for fouling, which was considerable, on account of the bad powder employed at that time. This caused great inaccuracy in the flight of the bullet, and the first attempts at improvement were to reduce the windage. To effect this, some of the German Fire-Arms of the 15th Century were made with grooves running straight down the bore without any spiral twist. The object of this was merely in order that the fouling might be pressed into the grooves, and the bullet was thus made to fit more closely to the "Lands" or spaces between the grooves, by this means greater accuracy was obtained. In 1820, Koster of Nuremberg began to give these grooves a spiral twist. The bullet was rammed down with a greased patch round it, which being pressed into the grooves, turned with them, and gave the bullet a spinning motion, the effect of which is of course too well understood to require explanation here. But this system was ill-adapted for Military purposes, because it took a long time to load the Rifle, and to remedy this defect, the round bullet was afterwards made with a zone or belt round the circumference. The belt fitted into two deep grooves, which ran down the bore with a spiral twist, and the bullet both in loading and firing was compelled to turn with them. Still this weapon had the same defect as the last, being difficult to load, and the attention of Inventors was directed to contriving a bullet, which would go down the barrel easily, being smaller than the bore, and which when at the bottom should be expanded into the grooves, and come out with a spiral twist. To accomplish this, Mr. Delvigne, a French officer, formed a chamber at the bottom of the barrel, which contained the powder. The bullet when rammed down, rested on the shoulder of this chamber, and by being hammered with two or three blows of the ram-rod, was expanded laterally into the grooves, just as an orange, if pressed at its opposite poles, expands its lateral circumference. But this gave the bullet the very worst form for flying through the air, being flattened by the blows of the ram-rod on the front part. The chamber was also found to get very foul, and to remedy this a pillar or stem was introduced into the breech, which answered the same purpose much better. This was called a Carbine-a-Tige, and was used in the French Army for some time. A cylindro-conoidal bullet was also introduced and the ram-rod, having a hollow out in the base of it to receive the point, obviated the defect of flattening the front part.

But it was found, that no weapon in which the ball had to be expanded by the blows of the soldier in ramming down, could be relied upon in the heat of action, and the attention of Inventors was directed to a still further improvement, by contriving a bullet which would go down the barrel easily, and which would expand itself on the discharge of the gun. A hollow was made at the base of the bullet, and it was thought that the gas in firing, would fill this cavity and press out the sides of the cylindrical part round it, into the grooves. This it did only too effectually, for it was sometimes found to press out the sides of the cylinder and blow off the head, leaving a cylinder of lead in the barrel. To meet this difficulty, a little iron cup was inserted into the hollow at the base of the bullet, and the hollow was made conoidal, smaller towards the inside, which it was thought would prevent the gas from entering the cavity, and by forcing the cup forward into the hole would press out the sides. This was called the Minie Musket, and was in use both in our own service and the French Army for a few years. But no one can see what actually takes place at the time of the discharge, and conjectures may be erroneous. It was afterwards found that the way in which the cup acted in forcing out the side[insert s, ie 'sides'] of the cylinder, was not by being forced into the cavity, but that it merely served as a sort of frame to it, to prevent its collapsing, and that the real cause of the expansion was, that the cylindrical part of the bullet, being reduced in substance and weakened by the cavity, the soft lead was squeezed into the groove merely by the pressure of the compressed air in front, and that of the gas behind. Around the cylinder, grooves had been cut on the outside of it to receive the cord which tied on the cartridge. These having been disused at one time, it was found that inaccuracy in the flight of the bullet resulted from their discontinuance, and they were re-introduced and systematised. The use of them appeared to be partly to keep the hinder part of the bullet in the rear whilst flying through the air, like the feathers of an arrow, and partly to assist in weakening the cylinder of the bullet, so as to enable it to be sqeezed [insert u ie squeezed] more easily into the grooves. Acting on this suggestion, Mr. Lancaster contrived a bullet in which there was no aperture, but in which the necessary reduction in the substance of the cylinderical [sic] part, was produced by deep grooves in imitation of the grooves formed to tie on the cartridge, which were called Cannelures. This bullet he used with a pillar breech, but as this form had become obselete [sic], Mr. Wilkinson of Pall Mall, took the matter up at this stage, and after many experiments, in which I assisted him [insert].[end insert] and [insert] He [end insert] found that a bullet, with lateral grooves of this kind when properly constructed, expanded itself merely by the opposing forces of the gas and the atmosphere. This was the desideratum that Inventors had been striving for. But in the course of these experiments, it was found by firing bullets into soft clay, so as to see the effects of the grooves of the Rifle upon them, that they received the impression of the grooves equally on the solid fore-part, which was above the lateral rings, and consequently the rings were not necessary. Mr. Wilkinson had reduced the size of his bore, and this served the purpose of reducing the resistance of the cylindrical part sufficiently to make it squeezable without the rings. Finally Mr. Pritchett took advantage of this discovery, and still further reducing his bore, produced a bullet without any rings, which he found took the impression of the grooves of the Rifle perfectly. This weapon which was known as the Enfield Rifle, continued in use in the English service for some years.

At this stage, I break off my description of the History of the Rifle: it went on improving gradually and has continued to do so until the present time, but the introduction of the breech-loading system obviated the necessity of self-expanding bullets. Opposite each figure in the diagram, I have attached a symbol. Those marked with a cross are those forms, which remained in use a long time. Those marked with a square are those which were introduced into the Service, but remained in use only a short time. Those marked with a circle, are the forms which may be said to have died out in an embryonic stage, and which, though serving as links in the development of ideas upon the subject, were never introduced into the Service, and are now very difficult or impossible to obtain, and would probably be wanting in any series of Rifles, that might be collected for a Museum, at the present time. They are the missing links, of which in pre-historic and savage Arts, such an enormous number was always exist. I have selected this series of the development of the Rifle, not because of any special interest attaching to it, but because it forms a good developmental series, and one, nearly every stage of which I was personally connected with and can vouch for, and consequently it serves my purpose of exemplifying the method to be followed in studying Savage and Pre-historic Arts in accordance with the only process that is applicable to the case, viz., that of explaining the unknown [?missing word, by] means of the known.

Ornamentation affords perhaps the best examples of continuous transmutation form that can be found, and ornamental patterns are very persistent in their duration and development. Some patterns introduced quite in pre-historic times have continued to our day. One great cause of the variation of ornamental patterns arises from successive copies, during which errors caused by faulty draughtsmanship have been handed down from one designer to another and exaggerated, until the original pattern has sometimes been completely lost, and some other allied form gradually substituted for it. The process is similar to that by which languages, dialects, music, myths, and even religions, have become changed. In the case of myths or religions or even dialects, the successive changes are very difficult to trace, when they have not been duly recorded, but in the case of ornamental patterns, the changes of form have often been preserved, or the designs have survived in wood or stone, and can be compared with one another. Similar changes in traditional and unwritten records are well exemplified by a game called "Russian Scandal" ****, in which one person introduces a short story, consisting of a few sentences and repeats it in a whisper to his neighbour, who in his turn repeats it to a third person, and so on in succession, until the last person of the party is made to repeat the story, as he heard it from the one before him, and the variation that it has undergone during the process is then compared with the original words, in which the story was introduced. It occurred to me, that the same thing might be done to shew the changes that take place by successive copies of drawings; so I got together ten persons, all of whom had learnt to draw, though of course they varied in their powers of delineation. I exhibit six cards on which their actual performances have been put together. It will be seen that there are six subjects, and ten representations of each. At the top of each series is the drawing made by No. 1., from the original: No. 2. copies from No. 1., and is not allowed to see the original, and so on to No. 10., in which it will be seen, that considerable changes have generally taken place.

This is one of the great causes of variation in ornamental patterns. One of the most usual results produced by these variations is the substitution of the field, or interspace for the pattern itself. This is seen on more than one of the diagrams that I exhibited.

Celtic cross models display at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

I exhibit also a diagram, shewing the variations of the loop-coil patterns, known to architects as the Vitruvian Scroll, or by other terms. This is one of the earliest and most widely diffused patterns in the world. It was known in Egypt as early as the 5th Dynasty, and probably originated in the folding of a continuous cord or band on the embroidery of dresses. It was a common Greek and Persian pattern. It was the prevailing ornament of the Bronze Age, and retained its place in Celtic ornamentation, between the 5th and 10th Centuries. It extends, with its variations, to China and Japan, to New Guinea and New Zealand. But it is remarkable that it entirely skipped the Deccan of India, from which region, after many year's [sic] search, I have never found an example of it. When squared, instead of being laid in rounded forms, it became the fret-pattern, and in the double fret developed the Swastica, which became a religious emblem. When one side of it is shaded or blocked with colour, it becomes the so-called Wave pattern. When the intergram, which I exhibit. [sic] ***** In America it was as widely spread as in Europe and Asia, and in Mexico and Peru it passed through the same identical phases as in the Eastern Hemisphere. My Collection contains a series of objects from different Countries, ornamented with this pattern and its variaties. Another diagram illustrates the development of Tumbler Locks from the earliest Egyptian form, and from the precisely similar form used in this country, in Germany, Scandinavia, Thibet, and elsewhere, up to the Tumbler Locks used upon our modern doors. On a fourth diagram, I shew how the architectural features of the carved wooden panels of the 15th and 16th Centuries were subsequently converted into leaf-shaped ornaments, whilst retaining the same outlines, given them by the lines and curves of the arches in the earlier panels, simply by the substitution of the interspace as patterns, instead of the original design.

P142d drawing of Christian emblem, copyright S&SWM PR papers

My last illustration consists of forty Models of Celtic Crosses, on a scale of 2 inches to a foot, made by my private archaeological Staff in pursuance of work done under the Ancient Monuments Act, with which I was charged as Government Inspector in Great Britain, and also a diagram of the principal changes that they underwent, shewing the development of the form of the Cross, between the 5th and 11th Centuries from the Chi-Rho Monogram of the Primitive Church. The Cross, as most persons are aware, was not a very early Christian Emblem. It was as abhorrent to them as a Gibbet would be to us, if it had been made the instrument of the unjust and cruel death of any great teacher, whom we loved and adored. They satisfied themselves with the first two Greek letters Chi, and Rho, of the word Christ. This was the emblem that Constantine adopted, when he embraced Christianity, and which was inscribed on the banners of his Soldiers. It underwent two transmutations before it began to develop, both of which were represented on the banner of Constantine. It is to be seen engraved on Roman steps in a Villa near Cirencester, and at Frampton in Dorset. When St Ninian in the 5th Century, coming from Gaul, first began to preach Christianity at Whithorn in Scotland, this was the Emblem that he brought with him, examples of which are to be seen in that neighbourhood. It was the simplest of these forms of Mongram; that in which the Arms of the X are drawn vertically and horizontally [drawing] and the Rho attached to the upper limb, which by expanding the extremities, slowly grew into what is commonly, but erroneously called the Maltese Cross. It was because the Latin Cross, which we are all familiar with, adapted itself to the form of the X of the first letter of Christ, that this form was adopted, in preference to the real instrument of Crucifixion, which was quite different, and resembled a T, more than a Cross. As the arms of the upright X expanded, its extremities grew wider, until they nearly touched, and finally quite touched each other, and they left an interspace between them which had, at the same time, gradually grown into the form of a circle. These four circles ultimately became the pattern, and the idea of the Cross or Chi itself was lost, and served only as a field to the round pellets which had been the interspaces. Finally the Latin form of Cross, which had developed elsewhere, was introduced into the Celtic Church, probably about the time, when the Celtic Cross became subject to Rome, thereby adapting it to the doctrine of the Atonement, which had crept into the Christian Belief, and by which the Instrument of Death had become also the instrument of our Redemption, and on that account a thing to be worshipped. When this Latin Cross was introduced, for the first time, into Scotland [insert] where the expanded Chi only had previously been used [end insert], they added oblong arms to the four extremities of the Chi, so as to form it into the shape of the Latin Cross, whilst retaining the Chi form in the centre, thereby forming what I call the Chi-Cross, which is the peculiar feature of the Celtic Cross, and is found nowhere else in the world.

But the four circular interspaces of the old Chi were not forgotten, and they continued to use them in the intervals between the arms of the Latin Cross. Finally, upon very rude Crosses, were [sic - ?where] time and skill in carving were not to be obtained, they scamped [1] the four circular bosses, which were difficult to make, and replaced them by four small Crosses, which were easily scratched or rubbed upon the stone, and which still retained the same places in the intervals between the arms of the Latin Cross. Here we have an example of what I previously alluded to, of simpler forms being sometimes introduced during the decay of an Art. Some persons supposing that because the four Crosses are rude forms easily made, and always incised, and not raised like the bosses, they must be of earlier construction, but I believe that, being merely substitutes for the circular bosses, and always occurring in the exact place of them, they were of latter date, though of ruder workmanship.

Many other illustrations might be given, each of which might well require a lecture to itself, but my object is merely to point out the principle of a methodical arrangement, and time forbids me to pursue the illustrations further.

In conclusion, I will briefly sketch out the design for an ideal Museum [insert] which [end insert] would embody the principles that I have advocated. At the time that my Collection was exhibited at South Kensington, the Government Buildings in the Horticultural Gardens were admirably adapted for the purpose, being in the form of a large square, without divisions, and consequently enabling an arrangement of series to be laid out from the centre to the circumference, the only form adapted to exhibit the expansion of the several Arts. Since then, other buildings of the same kind have been constructed for displaying the Annual Exhibitions, that have taken place during the last few years. All these objects collected in these Exhibitions have been dispersed; nothing remains of them. The last of them, the so-called Spanish Exhibition of last year, showed these Annual Exhibitions to be in a state of decrepitude and decay. By a process of evolution, similar to what I have been describing, the interludes appear to have usurped the place of the original designs, and they have now become devoted entirely to Bands and Switchbacks. If one-tenth of the sums, that have been laid out upon them, had been expended upon permanent collections, we should now have had the finest Educational Museum in the world.

In all the Exhibitions that have been made in this Country, there has been no attempt at Sequence. There have been Exhibitions that have been more or less Historical, but not developmental. None have displayed those minute changes, upon which progress really depends. The difference between an historical and a developmental arrangement is the difference between bounds and steps, more than that, it is the difference between flying and creeping. The great law "Natura non facit saltum" [2] reigns over the whole length and breadth of the subject that I have been discussing to-night. It is the discovery of Sequence that constitutes the Science of the Arts, we require neither onomies nor isms to direct us, nothing but affinity, and the analogy of known and established developments. With these we have to trace out the lines on which the various Arts have been evolved, impelled by the instinct of Research, which is adherent in the natures of some men. It is a species of hunting [insert] and it is a true sport for those, who cannot afford, or are otherwise unable, to indulge their hunting instincts in the field [end insert], far better [insert] sport [end insert] than covert shooting, better even than fishing. To discover a fresh link of connection [insert] in the Arts [end insert] is more exciting than to catch a big trout, in which there is nothing new, and which resembles all other trout. As a sport it more resembles fox-hunting, we have to keep our noses to the ground, and take care not to give tongue until we have got a true scent.

The only instance of scientific arrangement that has been seen within the walls of a Government Building in England, up to the time that I am speaking of, was the American Section of the Fisheries Exhibition. That was arranged so as to shew the derivation of all the modern Fishing Appliances, from those of Savages. It was a branch of the National Museum at Washington, which, though I have not seen it, is I believe well collected upon that plan. The Americans are in advance of us in many things and in this amongst others. They have the advantage of a tabula rasa to begin upon, and are not fettered by the habits and traditions of Institutions that have grown into maturity in a pre-scientific age.

My plan would be a large Rotunda, the exhibition cases of which should be arranged in concentric rings, as shewn in the accompanying diagram. In the inner ring would be exhibited, objects belonging to the Palaeolithic Period, which containing in the fewest [insert] earliest [end insert] and simplest forms of stone Implements, would occupy the least space. The next ring would be devoted to Neolithic implements, which by their relative complexity and number would fill a larger ring. The Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Saxon, Early English, and Medoeval [sic] Periods, would occupy successive rings [insert] to which their relative complexity would well adapt them [end insert] and the outer circles of all would be given to Modern Arts, shewing their development from those of Antiquity. Instead of originals, reproductions, and Models would be largely employed, thereby avoiding the rivalry of the Research Museums. Any visitor who wished to know the place in Art or Nature, of the subject he was studying, instead of having to refer to elaborate Catalogues, that he might not understand, would simply notice his position, with reference to the centre, and the circumference of the Rotunda.

It is possible that the realisation of such a scheme might still be distant. Meanwhile I would advocate the incorporation of all Local Museums in the Country into one vast Rotunda, without moving them from their localities, simply by an organisation to facilitate the interchange of specimens. Every Local Museum, besides having its Department of Local Antiquities, which would constitute its Museum of Research, and in which the objects found in the District would be explained by means of Restoration Models upon what may fairly be called the German Plan, as exemplified for instance in the Museums at Homburg, and Mayence, would, instead of Miscellaneous Collections, have one or two well-arranged Educational Series of Arts, representing the History of the prevailing Industries of the District.

I made this suggestion baldly in my Address to the Anthropological Section at Bath, where it met with some favour. I intentionally refrain from elaborating it, as details would only serve to point the shafts of adverse criticism, until the time arrives, if it ever does arrive, for carrying it out.

Apart from the educational value of such Museums, how greatly the inventive faculties of the people would be stimulated by Institutions in which every Artisan, however humble, who had contributed to the advancement of his craft, would find a place in which the work of his hand would be recorded for all time, and his name enrolled upon the honoured list of the world's benefactors.

*it is not clear who is being referred to here, there were only 2 people who worked directly as curatorial staff at the PRM, Oxford between 1884 and 1889-90, Henry Balfour (who did not leave until he died at the end of the 1930s) and his assistant J.T. Long who did leave in 1898 but only to join the Anatomical Dept at the University of Oxford. Of course there were also (unnamed) museum servants, but these would not be referred to in this way by Pitt-Rivers.

** the friend might be John Lubbock, his son-in-law, who lived in Kent?

*** Pitt-Rivers is referring to Menlo Park, New Jersey where Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) set up the first industrial research laboratory. The phonograph was invented here in 1877. The wikipedia entry for the phonograph discusses the improvements that were made here.

**** Now usually called 'Chinese whispers' in England, and explained here.

***** See objects from the loop coil series here.

[1] Oxford English Dictionary: Scamp, verb, to do a task hurriedly or negligently ...

[2] Nature does not make jumps

Transcribed by AP for the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project, August 2011.

prm logo