Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

English folklorists

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

Cover of the Folk-Lore Journal 1890.

Cover of the Folk-Lore Journal 1890.

Richard Dorson in his book, British Folklorists: A history, published in 1968, discusses some of the most important figures in British folklore studies. Dorson was an American folklorist but he believed that

... familiarity with the brilliant history of folklore science in England was as indispensable for the American, and indeed the European, Asian or African student of folklore as for the British. The birth and growth of the idea of folklore and the magnetism in that idea for many powerful minds in diverse callings formed a story as marvellous as any folktale. [Dorson, 1968: v]

This part of the Other Within website, discusses only those folklorists who were members of the Folklore Society. It also considers those folklorists who were particularly interested in the English, rather than concentrating on those with British concerns. When most of the selected people were working, around 1878-1950, there was as much intellectual debate about what we would now call 'Englishness': what was it, how could it be identified as there is today? Some believed it to be derived from German culture (Teutomania) others looked for a wholly 'indigenous' culture. At the time when most of these folklorists were active, disciplinary barriers were less marked than they are today and most of them were as interested in what would now be defined as anthropology as folklore. Others were interested in a number of different subjects, which we would consider today to be other disciplines like social history or statistics. For all of them, though, folklore was an important subject and they were all keen members of the Folk-Lore Society.

Not all of these folklorists contributed directly to the Pitt Rivers Museum's collections but they all influenced the on-going discussion about who the English really were, and what made them unique, and this, in turn, must have affected the English collections. Some were more interested in the intangible elements of folk-lore rather than material culture. Many of them did give artefacts to the Pitt Rivers Museum, and where they did their contributions are discussed.

It is interesting to note that those folklorists who are identified as being part of Dorson's 'Great Team' or were very prominent in the Folk-Lore Society did not donate to the Pitt Rivers Museum, whilst those people below who were 'footsoldiers' in the Society were more likely to give significant collections. In addition it is interesting to note how often their donations mirrored their folkloric interests.

Here are the folklorists, in alphabetical order:

Mary MacLeod Banks

Winifred Susan Blackman

Estella Canziani

George Reginald Carline

Edward Clodd

Frederick Thomas Elworthy

Ellen Ettlinger

Laurence Gomme

Edwin Sidney Hartland

Christina Hole

Joseph Jacobs

Edward Lovett

Percy Manning

Barbara Freire-Marreco

Margaret Alice Murray

John Linton Myres

Frederick York Powell

Richard Carnac Temple

Arthur Robinson Wright

Members of the Pitt Rivers Museum staff who have contributed to the Folklore Society

People who collected or donated English collections to the PRM who were members of the Folklore Society

This section of the website is still being prepared