University Gazette May 30 1882

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1. PRM Box 1, 1-33: 7



In a CONVOCATION to be holden on a day to be named hereafter, a Decree to the following effect will be submitted to the House.

E. Evans [1]


Delegates Room

May 29, 1882.

That the offer of Major-General Pitt-Rivers, F.R.S. to present his Anthropological Collection to the University be accepted; and that the University undertake to expend such sum as may be requisite for a building and cases to receive the Collection, providing that an agreement to be approved by the Hebdomadal Council as to the arrangement and maintenance of the collection be arrived at by General Pitt-Rivers on the one part and the Delegates of the University Museum on the other.

It is suggested that an annexe with a gallery all round it should be constructed at the east end of the Museum, so as to be a prolongation of the northern half of its width; the dimensions to be 80 feet in length by 70 in width and 20 in height, the floor to be on the level of the Museum court, with a well-lighted basement underneath. Quantities have been taken out for this building, and the estimate amounts to a little over £5000. The space on walls and floor at present occupied by the Collection has been measured, and the cost of cases, screens, &c. has been estimated roughly at between £2000 and £3000.

The Collection of General Pitt-Rivers is designed to illustrate the gradual development of the various branches of the arts and sciences in all parts of the world, by means of series of authentic objects arranged in such a manner as to exhibit the successive growth of more highly specialised forms from the most primitive types. It contains, for example, a general series of great extent intended to illustrate the development of weapons of all kinds, offensive and defensive, from the simplest appliances of prehistoric man; and this general series includes (amongst many others) special series in which the student can trace the history of the modern bayonet, of the ancient Greek kopis, of the shield, of bows, arrows, and crossbows of all kinds &c., &c. Other general series are devoted to the arts of writing, of ship-building, of weaving, of painting, sculpture, and ornamentation.

It will be seen that the Collection, besides having great intrinsic value, which from the scarcity of the objects themselves must necessarily increase as time goes on, is of very wide interest, and cannot but prove most useful in an educational point of view to students of Anthropology, Archaeology, and indeed every branch of history.

The Collection is at present on view at South Kensington Museum, in the old Exhibition building. A catalogue of the series of weapons, including above 1200 objects, is placed for the inspection of Members of Convocation in the Radcliffe Library at the University Museum, where also a fuller account of the Collection, published in Nature, 23rd September, 1880, may be consulted.

The following extracts of letters from A.W. Franks, Esq., F.R.S. of the British Museum, John Evans, Esq., D.C.L., Treasurer R.S., and E.B. Tylor, Esq., D.C.L., F.R.S., express the opinions of these high authorities as to the value of the Collection.

From A.W. Franks, Esq., F.R.S. [2]

I have been long acquainted with this Collection, and was a member of the Committee appointed by the Committee of Council on Education to consider the offer of the Collection to Government, which Committee unanimously recommended its acceptance.

The Collection is a very instructive and valuable one: the system on which it is arranged is different from that which I have adopted in arranging the national collection of ethnography, but it seems to me very desirable that collections should be arranged on different principles from each other, as each system brings out special points of information, and enables a student to see the various aspects of a subject.

I should be very glad to see the Collection safely housed at Oxford, and I consider it would be a very desirable addition to the means of teaching of the University.

It will day by day become more difficult to bring together specimens of this nature. The continental museums are pushing forward in this direction, as are also those of America, and excepting a very few parts of the world, authentic ethnographical objects, free from European influence, are almost unattainable.

From John Evans, Esq., F.R.S. [3]

I am very glad to hear that General Pitt-Rivers has so generously offered his Collection to the University of Oxford. It would be a most lamentable loss if the Collection were to leave this country, and I sincerely hope that there will be no difficulty in finding accommodation for it at Oxford. It has been considerably augmented since last I saw it, but even then the Collection was such as it would be almost if not quite impossible to get together again. As a school for studying development in form and in art it is unrivalled, and the mere fact of its peculiar arrangement, with the view to illustrating development, does not at all detract from the value of the Collection from an ethnological or anthropological point of viw. The arrangement and collocation of forms which shade off the one into the other are just the means of attracting the attention of a student, whether of nature or art, and setting him to make use of his eyes and of his brains, while to those who already know what an important factor development has been in all our surroundings, such a Collection will always be supplying fresh topics of interest. Placed at Oxford by the side of a good natural-history collection it will be of great value as a means of training future naturalists and anthropologists, of whom there is room for plenty more in this country.

From E.B. Tylor, Esq., F.R.S. [4]

My opinion of the Pitt-Rivers Collection has always been that it is invaluable for study of the stages of development of civilisation, and for teaching purposes.

Oxford would I think do a very important service to Anthropology and History by taking and housing the Collection, which would not only do its own work, but would enhance the value of the Ashmolean by making it intelligible.


[1] Evan Evans (1813-1891), vice chancellor from 1878-1882. See here for more information.

[2] Augustus Wollaston Franks, Museum keeper, British Museum.

[3] John Evans, archaeologist and paper manufacturer, father of Arthur John Evans

[4] Edward Burnett Tylor, the first Anthropologist appointed to a formal academic position in the UK as a result of the Pitt-Rivers collection coming to Oxford. See here for more information


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

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