'The truth is ... anthropology was born in the museum ...' [Chapman, 1981: iii]
This is a website about the history and development of museum anthropology at the University of Oxford between 1850 and 1920. It provides links to research data, archival resources and transcriptions helpful to any scholar interested in the topic.
Thankfully, the University of Oxford and its museums' manuscript collections have ensured that more than sufficient evidence has survived to make this research possible. By providing access to the thoughts and writings of previous generations of university staff, this website will spread information relating to the development of anthropology at Oxford and the early history of the Pitt Rivers Museum.
John Fell Oxford University Press Research Fund. The project was intended to be a 'scoping' exercise and will (hopefully) be a precursor to a larger project focussing on the pre-history of museum anthropology. Another focus will be on the individuals who contributed to the development of museum anthropology at Oxford, the founding of the Pitt Rivers Museum and establishment of the first paid anthropological lecturer-post at a British university, filled by Edward Burnett Tylor.This project and website was funded by the
Rethinking Pitt-Rivers. That project website contains much useful information for scholars interested in the development of museum anthropology and archaeology in the nineteenth century, seen particularly through the foci of Augustus Pitt-Rivers' two collections.The primary investigator for the scoping project is Jeremy Coote and the researcher is Alison Petch. The project will run from 1 September 2012 to end August 2013. The project team has recently completed a three-year Leverhulme Trust-funded project,
As before, with the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project, the project team has been supported by a wider community of interested scholars including Peter Rivière, Rachel McGoff and staff from the five main institutions whose resources will be 'scoped': the Pitt Rivers Museum, Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford Archives, OUMNH and other archives.
Alison Petch [AP] and Jeremy Coote [JC],
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.
[First written September 2012, updated regularly ever since]
Please note that the first photograph on this home page shows many of the key players in the story told by this website. In the back row, holding the rabbit, is Henry Balfour. In the middle of the middle row, with the drooping moustaches, is Henry Nottidge Moseley. And the most elderly gentleman on the front row, towards the right hand side, is Henry Acland. The man second from left in the same row is Walter Baldwin Spencer.
The date of the photograph is taken from the copy of the image used in 'Spencer's Last Journey' by Marett and Penniman, where the image is captioned 'The Morphological Laboratory, Oxford, 1884' and was apparently reproduced by the kindness of G.C. Bourne and H. Balfour (both also shown in the image). In the list of illustrations this is described as 'Group taken in the University Museum at Oxford in 1884'. Presumably Balfour's copy of the image was the one now held by the Pitt Rivers Museum. The caption for the image in 'Spencer's Last Journey' identifies the full list of people shown as: From top left: E.D.Y. Pode [?Poole], H. Balfour, G.H. Fowler, W.L. Sclater, F.E. Lewin, Rev. H. Johnson, S.J. Hickson, W.E. Roth, H.Y. Oldham, William Hine, W.B. Spencer, G.C. Bourne, Dr H.W. Acland and J.G. Ogle. In front of Gilbert Bourne, on the floor, is a Peruvian child mummy, from a necropolis at Ancon in the Lima region, 1886.2.19, now in the care of the Pitt Rivers Museum. This mummy was collected in Peru by Commander William Alison Dyke Acland, Royal Navy (1847-1924). He was the eldest son of Henry Acland, who is also in the photograph. This mummy was one of the ones mentioned in a note in the 'Oxford University Gazette' vol. XIII no. 436, 28 November 1882, saying, 'Donation to the University Museum. The Delegates of the Museum announce that four Peruvian Mummies, from Angon [sic] near Lima, presented by Commander W. Acland, R.N., have been opened and examined; and that a series of objects of ethnological interest obtained from them are now on view in the University Museum. These objects comprise children's toys, grotesque ornaments, articles of food, and specimens of coloured fabrics, with patterns and figures of animals, characteristic of Peruvian art.' (FL 6-2-06). This photograph shows the mummy before it was transferred from the University Museum to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1885-6.
The middle image on this home page shows a photograph, taken before 1887, of cranial displays at the Oxford University Museum, including a Tibetan vessel which is now in the Pitt Rivers Museum, 1887.1.589 (see here for more information about this image). The final image at the bottom is an early shot of the interior of the Pitt Rivers Museum after 1900, when the totem poles acquired by Tylor from the northwest coast area of Canada had been installed. [1998.267.264.1.1] The final image is of Edward Burnett Tylor, 1998.267.88.
Throughout the website the top strip image on each page shows part of two images taken of the interior of the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford during its early years at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.The two images are 1998.267.280.1 and part of another image referenced '64 3 10' whose provenance and date cannot, at present, be tracked down.