PRM ms collections PRM papers Box 1 36-41

Henry Balfour in later life [1998.356.17.1]

This report was drawn up by Henry Balfour, the first Curator of the Pitt Rivers Collection at Oxford (as it was then known, as it was still under the general control of the Oxford University Museum). It was enclosed in a letter dated 3 May 1891 from the Linacre Professor to Professor Price. The Linacre Professor says that the report has the approval of himself and Edward Burnett Tylor, the Reader in Anthropology. He points out that the Statue IV par 3 Particular regulations IVd enacts that the Linacre Professor is the Curator of Ethnological Collections of the University Museum. However, he quotes Professor Moseley's opinion that it is impossible for the Linacre Professor to do the double duty, and feels it is essential that a working curator be appointed. He urges the claims of Henry Balfour to this post, whose work has been beyond praise.

The Pitt Rivers Collection
Special Report

Note: The collection was accepted as a gift from General Pitt Rivers by the University in Convocation on Mar. 7, 1883. and a grant of a sum not exceeding £7500 was voted for building, cases and fittings.

- The form of decree as regards the acceptance of the offer of the collection was published in the University Gazette for May 30, 1882; and an account of the nature, bearing, & value of the collection appeared in the Univ'y Gazette for Feb. 6, 1883.

- The form of the deed of gift was published in the Gazette for May 20, 1884, on which day the University seal was affixed to the deed

- An additional grant of a sum not exceeding £1600 was voted on Dec. 2, 1884.

- On Nov. 29, 1887 the Curators of the University Chest were authorized to expend a sum not exceeding £1200 within three years from January 1, 1888, for the further continuance of the work. The reasons for this grant were published in the Gazette for Nov. 22m 1887.

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Henry Balfour in the upper gallery of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford [1998.267.94.4]

Present conditions

- At the end of the present year [insert] (1890) [end insert] the period of three years, and the use of the grant of a sum not exceeding £1200, which were allotted for the continuation of the arrangement of the collection, will expire, and I venture therefore to suggest that the very important question of the permanent maintenance of the collection, should be discussed [insert] considered [end insert] as soon as possible.

- As the matter now stands, at the expiration of the present grant no provision whatever has been made for maintaining and improving this department of the Museum, or of providing it with an efficient staff, and unless a sum of money is annually set apart for this purpose the very valuable collection must inevitably fall into a state of decay.

- At the end of this year the material will be classified [insert] into the different series [end insert], and arranged so far as is possible without a more detailed and exhaustive treatment, but it is hoped that the [insert] whole [end insert] collection may from time to time be gone over more and more carefully, in order to develop further its resources and illustrate more completely the important scheme of arrangement of which General Pitt-Rivers was the founder.

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Owing to the great interest taken in the collection, and in the system upon which it is arranged, valuable additions have constantly been coming in, and, by a proper use of this new material, it [insert] has been and [end insert] would be [insert] in the future [end insert] possible to greatly improve the existing series by filling up gaps in their continuity, or to add new series, and so to advance greatly the educational value of this unique collection.

Labels, drawings and maps are still greatly needed for the better explanation of the series, as well as a hand catalogue for the general public.

- [insert] The Curatorship vested by Statute in the Linacre Professorship of Human & Comparative Anatomy ([in different hand] Statute IV, I, §3, Particular regulation 4 [illegible mark]) [end insert] During the absence, due to illness, of Prof. Moseley The management and responsibility for the arrangement of the collection has practically fallen entirely upon the Sub-curator.

The present executive staff consists of a sub curator, and two servants the latter receiving 22/6 and 15/- per week respectively in wages.

- The Building, though defective in some points of construction, is well adapted to the present needs of the collection,

One of the PRM servants holding open a desk case [1998.267.26.5] Page iv

though many of the series are much cramped for want of supplementary glass cases, which should relieve the larger ones.

In the original plan, however, no provision was made for any extra rooms in which the work of the department might be carried on, after the building was ready to be thrown open throughout to the public.

The work has hitherto been carried on in the building itself; and, so long as one gallery can be shut off completely from public access, this is feasible though extremely inconvenient. Until proper work rooms are added it will be impossible to throw open the lower gallery.

Required provisions for permanent maintenance of the collection

- Staff. For the proper conduct of so large & important a department, in which the method of arrangement is so special, (involving a constant reference to the current & past literature) it is absolutely necessary that there should be a working curator, who should have control over the specimens and be responsible for them; who should

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moreover be able to give his entire attention to the department, as the work of maintaining & improving the collection is far too great not to require undivided interest.

Two servants are required in order to keep the department and its specimens clean, & free from insects pests, & to prevent decay, as well as to carry on the varied work entailed in a department of this kind. Many specimens require constant attention, & much time is occupied in checking the inroads of insect pests, which have already proved a very serious hindrance.

- Building:

The necessary additions are:

(1) A Curator's room adjoining the building & leading from it, in which specimens could be labelled, classified & catalogued, & correspondence carried on.

(2) A working room in which the servants of the department could carry on their work at fittings, carpentry etc. This room should also be fitted out as a store room for duplicate specimens, and for materials & fittings.

An expensive building would by no means be required, the chief requisite being absolute dryness.

There appears to be no space in the Natural History [insert] Main Building of the [end insert] Museum which could be devoted to the purpose. [insert on verso of page iv] It will also be desirable to fix a permanent door to each of the galleries so that either one can be closed at any time to the public, during the conduct of special work.

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- Cases etc: There must always be a certain demand for new cases and fittings, created greatly by the acquisition of new specimens, & for this a small annual sum would be necessary.

- Specimens: A small reserve fund for the purchase of specially desirable specimens when occasion offered, would greatly assist the rendering of the collection as complete as possible.

Transcribed by AP as part of the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project, 2011

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