Rethinking Pitt-Rivers' colloquium

Chinese figure 1884.68.70

'The Many Faces of General Pitt-Rivers': A Workshop of the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers Project

25 March 2011


This workshop was for invited participants only.

The colloquium had two major aims:

  • to provide the ‘Rethinking Pitt-Rivers’ team with the opportunity of reporting on the project to scholars with a specialist interest in the General; and
  • to provide a forum for debate and discussion about the connections between the many different aspects of his life and career.

The major aim of the workshop was to foster discussion and debate between Pitt-Rivers scholars and thanks to the participation of everyone this was more than achieved. Jeremy introduced the project and also spoke about Pitt-Rivers' interest in oghams, showing the oghams in the founding collection at the same time. Through the day there were talks about some aspects of Pitt-Rivers' life and work to spur on discussion - these talks looked at the beginning of his collection in the 1850s (Petch), his Army career and its influences (Bowden), how he acquired his collections (Rivière), his Egyptian collection and visit to Egypt in 1881 (Stevenson) etc. Two of the key points which were discussed were how important rapidly-evolving Army technology and his Army career were to the development of Pitt-Rivers as a thinker and collector and the way the founding collection was inspired by the idea of series, and the second collection might have been by aesthetics. The discussion was summed up by Chris Gosden.

After the workshop concluded the participants visited the exhibition of the paintings inspired by Pitt-Rivers' second collection by Sue Johnson, on display in the Museum's Lower Gallery and enjoyed a glass of wine. Sue had previously explained how she had created the work and what had inspired her.

The whole day was very successful and the project team are very grateful to everyone for their support and enthusiasm.

Invited Participants:

Mark Bowden, Richard Bradley, Dan Burt, William R. Chapman, Jeremy Coote, Jane Ellis-Schön, Christopher Evans, Haas Ezzet, Chris Gosden, Adrian Green, Dan Hicks, Sue Johnson, Frances Larson, Arthur MacGregor, Christopher Morton, Alison Petch, Colin Renfrew, Anthony Pitt-Rivers, Peter Riviére, Nathan Schlanger, Alice Stevenson, Michael Thompson, Hermione Waterfield, Christopher Wingfield.

Rachel McGoff, Jasmine Aslan, Sria Chatterjee, Charlotte Lintern and Jozie Kettle were also invited to attend.

On the day apologies were received from Richard Bradley, Dan Burt, Bill Chapman, Arthur Macgregor and Colin Renfrew.


This was the first scholarly meeting to be organized in association with the ‘Rethinking Pitt-Rivers’ project. We hope to organize at least two more meetings in the next year or so: one on collecting in the second half of the nineteenth century, thus providing an opportunity to compare and contrast Pitt-Rivers’s activities with those of his key contemporaries; and another, inspired by the illustrated catalogue of Pitt-Rivers’s ‘second’ collection (see here for details) on the ‘art of cataloguing’.

Alison Petch, February 2011, updated after the workshop on 5 April 2011.

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