Progress 3: September 2010 - March 2011

Rethinking Pitt-Rivers: Progress Report 3
September 2010 to end March 2011

?Roman helmet 1884.32.14

During this period detailed research into all of Pitt-Rivers' collections continued. Alison Petch reviewed the lives and work of similar collectors to Pitt-Rivers like John Lubbock, Augustus Wollaston Franks, and John Evans. She also looked at the kinds of issues that were being debated when Pitt-Rivers was working by an extensive survey of the papers of the Ethnological Society of London, the Anthropological Society (later Anthropological Institute) and the Archaeological Institute. Pitt-Rivers was a key member of all of these societies. It is important to contextualise the particularities of Pitt-Rivers' life. She also looked at Pitt-Rivers' collecting by decade, prepared two talks for the Friends of the PRM and MERL, Reading and a talk for the Friday seminar at the Pitt-Rivers Museum. For the RPR workshop in March 2011, she researched the beginnings of Pitt-Rivers' collecting in the 1850s; she hopes that this might form the basis of a paper or an article at a later date.

Alison added much new information and new articles to the website, concerning the past history of the founding collection, Pitt-Rivers' friends and colleagues etc etc. She also prepared a database of the Pitt-Rivers family's catalogue of General Pitt-Rivers' art collection at 1900, kindly loaned to the project for a short time. As a basis of the project team's research, Dan Burt also photographed the catalogue.

It is hoped that the databases incorporating the scanned images of the catalogue of the second collection and searchable transcriptions and a similar database for the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum will be made available, in an integrated form, to the public on this website. This has been subject to much discussion with Anthony Pitt-Rivers and Cambridge University Library.

Alison and Dan both worked on timelines for the site, building on all the dated activities outlined there and also the general events in England.

Jeremy Coote liaised with Sue Johnson, discussing displaying her art exhibition, which relates to the Pitt-Rivers' collections, in the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford from late January 2011. The exhibition was installed on 27 January 2011 by Jon Eccles in the Lower Gallery of the Museum. It is hoped that the exhibition will remain in place until May 2011 at least. On 16 February 2011 Sue was interviewed on BBC Radio Oxford about her work and the exhibition.

Peter Rivière began research into the Anthropological Institute's collection which was acquired by Pitt-Rivers and also began investigating his connections with the Royal United Services Institution and its collection. He also prepared web pages on the items obtained by Pitt-Rivers from auction houses.

Rachel McGoff continued working on proof-reading the Filemaker database, she had already completed two volumes before Christmas but volume 2 proved to be a very stiff task (being the longest and most complicated of the volumes) which would take a great deal longer to complete. Rachel was joined in December 2010 by Jozie Kettle, one of the MAME students in the Museum, who it is hoped will proofread 2 volumes. In January 2011 Corinna Gray joined the team to work for five weeks as an intern, she proofread 3 volumes and also worked on the Sotheby's sales catalogues provided by Anthony Pitt-Rivers which list some of the items sold from the 1950s on from Pitt-Rivers' second collection. Finally, Tamsin Aslan, another MAME student, also joined the team in January to proofread the final volume to be assigned.

Dan digitally photographed each of the five founding collection's accession books, prepared during the 1920s by E.S. Thomas at the Pitt Rivers Museum to incorporate them with the relevant Filemaker entries onto the RPR website. Amazingly, it took him less than a day to prepare raw shots of the five books, unfortunately he then had to work on them more intensively to get them ready for incorporation onto the site.

William Chapman wrote an excellent D.Phil thesis in 1981 about Pitt-Rivers' work, 'Ethnology in the Museum: A.H.L.F. Pitt Rivers (1827–1900) and the Institutional Foundations of British Anthropology, copies of the two volumes were lodged with the Bodleian and Balfour Libraries at the University of Oxford. However, access to other researchers was extremely limited and Bill very kindly agreed to allow the project team to improve access by re-typing the thesis into digital form and making it accessible via the project website. This was a very exciting development and the project team are very grateful to Bill for agreeing to this proposal and for sharing his data so freely. It is hoped that the digital version will be made available via the website by the end of this reporting period.

Chris Morton, Head of Photograph and Manuscript Collections, Pitt Rivers Museum has been doing exciting research into the photographs in the founding collection. It has been known for quite a long time that the founding collection contained photographs because they are listed in some of the primary sources used at the Pitt Rivers Museum, but very little else was known about them and they were effectively lost in the Museum. Chris has been trawling through the collections identifying the relevant images, and hopes to produce several outcomes about his discoveries. Dan has photographed these collections for future display on the website.

Jeremy has been working with students at the Department of the History of Art, University of Oxford, on research relating to the collections of Pitt-Rivers. It is hoped that this work will continue next year with the 2011-12 students.

Alison talked to two of the Pitt Rivers Museum technicians who were trained artists about the possibilities of exploring the techniques used by Pitt-Rivers' assistants to prepare the CUL catalogue. She was hopeful that one or two of them could work on producing something for the website which would show the way that the second collection catalogue drawings had been produced, to date this hope has not been realised.

It was hoped that a one-day workshop on one or more key aspects of the project could be held for the project team and invited guests during this period, a date being eventually set for March 2011. Further details of these plans can be found here. Both Jeremy and Alison prepared talks for the workshop, Alison on the beginnings of the Pitt-Rivers collections in the 1850s and Jeremy an introduction to the project and a separate talk about the oghams in the founding collection (and British Museum).

Alison and Jeremy attended the 150 years of Salisbury Museum Conference held at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum on 2-3 October 2010 where they gave a paper entitled 'Rethinking Pitt Rivers Project: Analysing the Activities of a Nineteenth-Century Collector'. The conference lasted two days and was extremely interesting throughout with a surprisingly large number of the papers relating to Pitt-Rivers, particularly his archaeological work on his own estate. In addition there was a very interesting paper about the Blackmore Museum and Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum which was useful context for the Pitt-Rivers' Farnham Museum of around the same time, and very close in location.

After the conference discussions began with Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum to see if it would be possible for them to formally loan the Pitt-Rivers manuscript collection to the Pitt Rivers Museum for a period of approximately a year. Not only would this much benefit the project, but it was hoped that the PRM could organize volunteer help to scan the collection so that eventually it could be made available via the web to the public. The possibility of preparing a paper about this collection for Antiquity jointly authored was discussed.

Jane Ellis-Schon kindly provided details of the 100s of objects from Pitt-Rivers' second collection that are now in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and Alison made some in-roads into matching them with the CUL catalogue.

Jeremy and Alison gave a talk at the Friday lunchtime seminar series at the Pitt Rivers Museum about the project on 28 January 2011. This included short presentations by Sue Johnson and Chris Morton.

Alison gave a talk about the project and its findings to date at a meeting of the Friends of the Pitt Rivers Museum on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 6.30 pm at the Museum. There were many interesting questions at the end of the talk from the Friends who were present.

Jeremy and Alison gave a talk about the project at the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading University, on 15 March 2011 at 4.30 pm. The occasion was very enjoyable with many interesting questions at the end.

Jeremy and Alison have also been very involved with organizing the next MEG conference to be held at the Pitt Rivers Museum on 14-15 April 2011, see here for more information.

Discussions began with Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum regarding the loan from them to the Pitt Rivers Museum of the Pitt-Rivers manuscript collection. This was not only to aid the progress of this project (for which support the project team is most grateful) but also hopefully to expedite the digitisation of the collection so that it can be made available to Pitt-Rivers scholars via the web and help the conservation of a fragile paper archive.

Alison Petch and Jeremy Coote

October 2010, updated regularly 2010-11; completed 5 April 2011.

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