Court of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford looking east. 1998.267.262.6

The following paper was published by Frances Larson in the Journal of the History of Collecting, vol. 20 no. 1 (2008) pp. 85-100 and is reproduced here with kind permission of the author and editor.

Anthropological landscaping: General Pitt Rivers, the Ashmolean, the University Museum and the shaping of an Oxford discipline

Frances Larson

THE location of the Pitt Rivers Museum can cause some confusion. The large arched entranceway, although hardly modest, is tucked away beneath the furthermost gallery of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Visitors must make their way through the main court of the University Museum,[1] past beetles and butterflies, towering dinosaur skeletons and the benevolent limestone figures of Prince Albert, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, before descending the steps to the ethnographic and archaeological exhibits of the Pitt Rivers Museum beyond. Staff at both museums acknowledge that, signposts notwithstanding, some of the people admiring the treasures in the Natural History Museum believe they are viewing the collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum, while others, driving into Oxford in search of the natural history collections, are confounded by road signs that repeatedly refer only to its ethnographic neighbour.

As this unusual situation of a museum within a museum suggests, the two were originally one and the same. More accurately, the Pitt Rivers Museum was established in Oxford in the 1880s as an extension of the University Museum. The Pitt Rivers extension constituted a new ethnographic department, which took its place alongside zoology, anatomy, geology and all the other scientific departments that had been housed under the University Museum’s roof since its opening in 1860 ... For all these departments, objects were intellectual capital, the driving force of academic enquiry. Scientific knowledge was generated by collecting, comparing and classifying the world’s products – whether they were moths or minerals, baskets or bones – and it followed that a new collection meant a new space for scientific research.

The collection created by General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers (1827–1900) was a highly desirable material asset for a University which, in the early 1880s, made no unified provision for its ethnographic collections. But it was the intellectual space which the collection promised that enthused the Oxford activists who secured the General’s donation in 1884. They wanted to see increased provision for anthropology, a subject as yet unrepresented in British universities, and they recognized that the Pitt Rivers collection – numbering some 20,000 objects at the time – was not only a valuable academic resource in its own right but would also necessitate a considerable financial commitment on the part of the University. At a most basic level, it would require accommodation and some staffing. The promise of the General’s collection gave momentum to negotiations for formal anthropological teaching and, it was hoped, a new final honour school in the subject.

The question of where the Pitt Rivers collection should be housed had disciplinary ramifications for Oxford anthropology that are clearer now, with the benefits of hindsight. The answer was not self-evident at the time. The General’s donation coincided with the early stages of the resurgence of the Ashmolean Museum as a leading institution for art and archaeology, home, ultimately, to the University’s precious collections of European and Asian antiquities. To some, a division between nature, at the University Museum, and culture, at the Ashmolean, made most sense, but Pitt Rivers had no wish to see his artefacts amalgamated with those at the Ashmolean; he had explicitly devised his collection as an exercise in the ‘natural history of man’ and his scientific approach to anthropology was shared by a key group of lobbyists based in the University Museum. These scientists, most notably George Rolleston (1829–1881), had already begun to mark out a tentative space for anthropology at the University Museum, and they realized that the new collection would transform these preliminary efforts into a substantial academic department.

The founding of the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford has been seen primarily in terms of the motivations of the donor,[2] but it was as much a consequence of careful and prolonged diplomacy on the part of Rolleston’s colleagues and successors at the University Museum. These men – Henry Acland (1815–1900), Henry Moseley (1844–1891), Henry Smith (1826–1883) and John Westwood (1805–1893) among them – believed that the University Museum was the proper home for anthropology at Oxford, and their arguments prevailed.

The fact that the Pitt Rivers donation was driven forward by Oxford’s natural scientists – rather than, for example, an association of classicists – helped ensure that Oxford University would be home to two major museums for anthropology and for art and archaeology respectively: the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ashmolean Museum. The effects of the decision to house ethnography at the University Museum were long lasting. The University’s existing collections were restructured in accordance with this new division: artefacts were transferred between the different institutions and teaching responsibilities were shared amongst their staff members.

The debates over the University’s anthropological and archaeological collections at the time when Pitt Rivers offered his collection show that the material substance and the intellectual character of these disciplines were less distinct then than might now be assumed. Negotiations concerning physical resources – in this case, collections and the buildings and facilities they required – were, in effect, negotiations regarding intellectual demarcations. These tangible entities not only shaped the geographies of academic identity but also provided, in a very unambiguous sense, the raw material for knowledge, and the way in which they were assembled in the mid-1880s had major consequences for the future shape of anthropology at Oxford.

The Oxford University Museum and George Rolleston’s plans for anthropology

Discussions at the University Museum regarding the Pitt Rivers donation were presided over by Henry Acland, Regius Professor of Medicine. Acland’s success in promoting scientific study at Oxford in the 1850s and 1860s had rested on his insistence that a broad foundation in science should be at the heart of a liberal education, and that scientific enquiry was at its strongest when it tackled the widest range of subjects, since all the sciences were interrelated.[3] For Acland, anthropology formed part of the study of ‘the Laws of Life in all organized beings’, and it should take its place in the University Museum alongside anatomy, physiology, zoology, geology, palaeontology, chemistry and medicine.[4]

Acland’s general philosophy was given practical weight by his colleague George Rolleston, the charismatic and distinguished Linacre Professor of Anatomy and Physiology. Rolleston laid the groundwork for Pitt Rivers’s donation to Oxford. He was a true polymath. Trained as a physician, he taught anatomy, physiology, zoology, anthropology and archaeology at Oxford.[5] Rolleston gradually developed the University Museum’s collections of antiquities and ethnographic material, as far as his time and resources allowed. The Museum already cared for some ethnographic objects; most notably a small collection of artefacts from Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific. This collection had almost certainly been given to Christ Church by Joseph Banks in the early 1770s and was transferred to the University Museum, along with other (primarily anatomical) specimens, when it was founded in 1860.[6]

During the course of the next twenty years, Rolleston oversaw the acquisition and labelling of a number of stone tools and other archaeological artefacts from sites in India, the UK, and elsewhere, some of which he had collected himself, as well as gradually developing the Museum’s ethnographic collections. He received, for example, a collection from Niue made by the Revd William George Lawes and items from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands collected by Edward Horace Man.[7] Some display cases were purchased, on an ad hoc basis, to exhibit ethnographic objects and prehistoric antiquities in the Museum’s central court during the 1870s and early 1880s.[8] Thus, partly thanks to Rolleston’s enthusiasm, ethnography had always been represented at the University Museum to a limited extent. But Rolleston’s efforts were necessarily limited by the breadth of his intellectual interests and his varied responsibilities at Oxford, and he ‘strongly urged’ the university to divide his Chair into three professorships, one of physiology, one of comparative anatomy and one of human anatomy and anthropology.[9]

In 1880, Rolleston became involved with discussions regarding the future of the Pitt Rivers collection. He had become close to Pitt Rivers – then Lane Fox – in the late 1860s and early 1870s while advising him on various archaeological excavations. When Pitt Rivers inherited his Dorset estate in 1880 and began to expand his ideas for his collection, which was then housed at the South Kensington Museum, Rolleston was one of the men chosen to consider his proposals for more space and resources.

The Pitt Rivers collection had been cared for by the South Kensington Museum since 1874. Now that the General had inherited a considerable income he formulated a scheme that would see him retain control of the collection while the Government, through South Kensington, would increase its provisions quite considerably, allowing him to develop the collection accordingly. The plan was complicated by the fact that the collection would be administered through the Ethnographic Department at the British Museum, under the expertise of Augustus Wollaston Franks, while still being housed at South Kensington. The proposals were put to an external committee for review, and Rolleston was one of the committee’s members. The committee reported favourably in 1880, and enthused about the collection’s ‘great value and interest’.[10] Despite this, officials at South Kensington were less enamoured with the idea of funding and housing a growing collection over which they would have little control, and, understandably, they refused the proposal. Pitt Rivers continued to add to the collection, but in the autumn of 1881, South Kensington informed him that they would no longer accept new objects from him on loan, since the collection’s future was uncertain.

No longer welcome at South Kensington, the General was left to consider his options. He toyed with the idea of building his own museum in or near London, but he was also planning a new museum on his estate in Dorset and this may have dissuaded him from such an ambitious scheme.[11] He considered making an arrangement with the University of Cambridge, but the fact that a collection of archaeology and ethnography was already being installed in the University Museum there may have discouraged him.[12] Meanwhile, he discussed the situation at Oxford with Rolleston. We know this from a letter Pitt Rivers wrote to Acland at a later date wishing him, ‘every success in your endeavours to promote anthropology in Oxford. Professor Rolleston often talked to me about it and we can’t but wish that he had lived to carry it out.’[13] Given his involvement on the South Kensington committee, Rolleston may well have suggested his University as a possible home for Pitt Rivers’s collection. Bringing the collection to Oxford would open up a dedicated space for anthropological research, something Rolleston could not achieve on his own.

Pitt Rivers was not the only prominent anthropologist Rolleston talked to about the future of the subject at Oxford. He also discussed his ideas with Edward Burnett Tylor (1832–1917). Tylor’s hugely successful book, Primitive Culture, first published in 1871, had helped to establish him as Britain’s leading anthropologist, and Rolleston was eager to bring him to Oxford. Tylor suggested as much when he wrote to Pitt Rivers in the autumn of 1882 about the situation at Oxford: ‘the University establishing your Collection may effect a scheme suggested to me by Rolleston years ago as to a Readership at Oxford which might help to bring Anthropology into the University course. If all goes right with your Museum, it is likely that I may be asked to give one or two lectures at Oxford with a view to some permanent appointment coming afterwards.’[14] Rolleston’s plans were made informally rather than in an official capacity on behalf of the University, but by sharing his ideas with Pitt Rivers and Tylor he had broached the possibilities at Oxford with two of the leading British anthropologists of the day. Unfortunately, his death in 1881 meant that he did not live to see the results of these early consultations.

The Pitt Rivers collection and anthropology as an Oxford science

As Tylor’s letter to Pitt Rivers had intimated, securing the General’s collection for Oxford became vital to the pro-anthropology lobbyists within the University. Once installed at the University Museum, the collection would form the basis of a new ethnographic department. It would require considerable financial investment on the part of the University and some restructuring of the staff at the Museum, so that curatorial time could be devoted to the specimens. As a teaching collection, it would, quite literally, create a new site for anthropology at Oxford. The collection was a large, prestigious and valuable resource around which disciplinary structures could be arranged.

Negotiations with Pitt Rivers were resumed on a more formal basis in early 1882 by Rolleston’s colleague at the Museum, John Obadiah Westwood, Hope Professor of Zoology. At Westwood’s suggestion, Pitt Rivers authorized Rolleston’s successor as Linacre Professor of Human and Comparative Anatomy, Henry Nottidge Moseley, to make a formal offer to the University on his behalf.[15] Although Westwood remained involved in discussions over the coming months,[16] it was Moseley who pushed the scheme forward, and he did so in the same spirit as Rolleston, seeing the donation primarily as a platform from which the study of anthropology at Oxford could be promoted: ‘I think the collection would be a splendid gain to Oxford and would do much in the way of letting light into the place and would draw well. Besides of course it ... would be of extreme value to students of anthropology in which subject we hope to allow men to take degrees very shortly’.[17]

Acland, meanwhile, wrote to Pitt Rivers with ‘proposed schedules of study for Honours in Anthropology’ which he was asked to ‘criticise freely’. Pitt Rivers obliged, writing in May 1882, just a few months after his offer, with extremely detailed comments. He considered the four main sections of the proposal in turn: physical anthropology, ethnology (defined as the study of race and migrations), culture (including philology, sociology, arts and industries) and archaeology.[18] Pitt Rivers shared the vision, held by Acland, Moseley and their colleagues at the Oxford Museum, of anthropology as a ‘science of man’, incorporating anatomical, sociological, artefactual and archaeological research. He was enthusiastic about the idea of his collection establishing a new scientific department at Oxford. He had always promoted his collecting work as a scientific enterprise; indeed, this, he argued, was what set his collection apart from many other anthropological collections at the time.

Pitt Rivers’s collection had been devised as an exercise in classification according to the traditions of the natural sciences. By concentrating on slight modifications in the form of each artefact he acquired, and arranging them in ‘typological’ series according to these variations, Pitt Rivers treated cultural objects like ‘natural history specimens, which have for years past been selected with a view to variety, affinity and sequence’. For this reason, he was interested in everyday objects rather than rare artefacts. Ethnographic ‘curiosities’, he wrote, ‘not being supposed capable of any scientific interpretation ... have not been obtained in sufficient number or variety to render classification possible’.[19] In accordance with the scientific tradition, Pitt Rivers wrote that the historical development of cultural practices – indeed, the ‘evolution’ of human ideas – could be deduced through a systematic study of the material world:

Human ideas, as represented by the various products of human industry, are capable of classification into genera, species, and varieties in the same manner as products of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and in their development from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous they obey the same laws.[20]

Given Pitt Rivers’s methodology, it is hardly surprising that he was encouraged by the support his collection attracted from the scientific community at Oxford. He wrote to Acland in May 1882, ‘It will add much to the pleasure of presenting my Museum to Oxford that you and the scientific members of the University should be so favourable to its going there, and I hope much that it may be brought about’.[21] But his comment was a weighted one. The suggestion had been made to him, at this early stage in the negotiations, that his collection should be amalgamated with the existing collections at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and Pitt Rivers was very much against this idea.

The Ashmolean Museum and Oxford’s archaeological collections

Talks between Oxford and Pitt Rivers coincided with a drawn-out period of internal debate regarding the future of the University’s archaeological collections. Since the Pitt Rivers collection included a large number of archaeological artefacts (he actually gave more archaeological objects to the University than ethnographic ones), it is hardly surprising that his proposed donation should raise additional questions about the organization of Oxford’s antiquities collections, which were already under review.

Debates regarding the proper care of the University’s antiquities had centred on the Ashmolean Museum. The collections at the Ashmolean, housed on Broad Street since its opening in 1683, had suffered a prolonged period of neglect during the eighteenth century and, despite consolidation and improvements in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the collections were much depleted by the transfer of material to the University Museum when it opened in 1860. Prior to this, the Ashmolean had incorporated a school of natural history. Its collections of minerals, fossils, zoological specimens, plants and shells were housed alongside a chemical laboratory and rooms for teaching undergraduates in experimental philosophy.[22] Such was the impact of the 1860 transfers, that ‘the viability of the Ashmolean hung in the balance’ as a result.[23]

At this time, the Ashmolean’s collection of antiquities was relatively small, but it was growing gradually and in 1862 the ground floor of the Museum was designated as ‘an Archaeological Museum’. Even so there was little logic or purpose to the organization of the University’s antiquities collections more generally, which were distributed between various buildings and institutions. Real engagement with the future needs of these collections came about only with the prospect of an important donation of classical and Renaissance antiquities from the art collector Charles Drury Edward Fortnum in the late 1870s. Noting some disarray, Fortnum had misgivings about the University’s commitment to its collections, and, in an associated move in late 1878, the Hebdomadal Council [24] had been presented with a memorial signed by 132 members of the University calling for a dedicated museum for archaeology and art.

Proposals for a museum of archaeology and art were bolstered further when the Revd Greville Chester, who had collected on behalf of the Ashmolean for a number of years, published an impassioned tract on the ‘disgraceful’ state of the University’s archaeological collections. All those interested in the subject, Chester believed, would demand, ‘the radical reform of the present system, or rather the contemptuous and apathetic want of system which prevails in the University with respect to the treasures of ancient art committed ... to its care’. Chester went on to bemoan the fact that this material was distributed between the Ashmolean, the University Museum, the Taylorian Institute and the Bodleian Library, with little if any perceptible logic, and he argued that it should be brought together as a unified whole within the Ashmolean. Fortnum wrote a long letter of support for Chester in December 1881, and a University committee was established to consider the future of its art and archaeology collections.[25]

This situation remained unresolved when official negotiations were opened with Pitt Rivers in 1882. The future constitution of the University’s archaeological and ethnographic collections was the subject of active debate, and the suggestion that Pitt Rivers’s collection might be combined with the Ashmolean’s in some way came at an early stage. But Pitt Rivers wrote in May 1882, ‘I am afraid the incorporation of the Ashmolean Museum with mine may spoil it. Valuable as the objects in that Museum are it has a different object and had better be kept apart. However we shall see what the committee say [sic] ...’.[26] In the same letter, Pitt Rivers reminded Acland that his collection was unusual because it was ‘arranged upon the system of shewing the development of ideas’, a scheme of classification that he claimed others had since copied. Also, he expressed his satisfaction that the idea of donating his collection had been supported by the University’s scientific members. His strong belief was that his collection belonged, not with a collection of classical antiquities and works of art, but alongside the other collections from the realm of science at the University Museum.

Fortnum, in contrast, had envisaged a museum of art and archaeology at Oxford that would display ‘the work of man as distinguished from the Natural History Museum, which ought to be confined to the works of “Nature”.’ He argued that a division between man-made artefacts and natural specimens was the clearest way to delineate the University’s collections. Had it received the necessary support within the University, this scheme would have seen the Pitt Rivers collection amalgamated with the existing material at the Ashmolean. According to R. F. Ovenell, Fortnum foresaw a new Ashmolean Museum that traced human history from, ‘the first flint implement to the Parthenon frieze, on through Greece and Rome to the Renaissance, and up to the present day’.[27]

Pitt Rivers, however, was adamant that his donation would be dependent on the construction of a new building to house it, and he stipulated that any additions to his collection must be made in accordance with the existing typological arrangement, that prioritized form and function over cultural origin and age. The typological displays were the most distinctive feature of Pitt Rivers’s collecting work and he defended them steadfastly. The clause regarding the collection’s system of classification was one of the most comprehensive in the Deed of Gift: any changes to the ‘details’ of the arrangement, ‘shall be such only as shall be necessitated by the advance of knowledge and as shall not affect the general principle originated by the said Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers’. In addition, the contract specified not only that the collection would be housed ‘in a separate annexe to the present University Museum’, but also that the inscription, ‘Pitt Rivers Collection’, would be inscribed over the door, both on the inside and the outside.[28] The General would not see his life’s work merged imperceptibly into the collections of any existing Oxford institution.

Securing a space for anthropology and finalizing the Deed of Gift

If Pitt Rivers was pushing for an eponymous purpose-built extension at the University Museum, then, luckily for him, the scientists at the Museum were equally enthusiastic about providing accommodation for a new ethnography department. Besides Moseley, Westwood and Acland, the geologist Joseph Prestwich and Henry Smith, the Keeper of the Museum and Savilian Professor of Geometry, were both integral to the negotiations regarding the Pitt Rivers donation. Smith in particular mediated between the Museum delegates and the University’s Hebdomadal Council. He prepared statements, presented reports and put forward motions concerning the collection at Council meetings throughout 1882, helping to propel the negotiations onwards.[29]

In November 1882, at a meeting of the Hebdomadal Council, Smith proposed an official University deputation to consult with Pitt Rivers. The Oxford representatives – among them two philologists (Friedrich Max Müller and Archibald Henry Sayce) and two historians (William Stubbs and Henry Francis Pelham), as well as Acland, Moseley, Westwood, Prestwich and Smith – visited the collection a number of times in London and met with the General. Their verdict was wholly positive:

The Committee have examined the Collection on several occasions, and having had its contents and purposes explained to them by Major-General Pitt-Rivers in person, are thoroughly convinced of its great importance, and, believing that its presence in Oxford could not but prove of great assistance to students in almost all branches of study, and of great value in aiding general education, strongly urge the Hebdomadal Council to take such steps as shall enable the University to become possessed of it.[30]

Meanwhile, Westwood made enquiries with South Kensington regarding the amount of space required to house the collection, and, in January 1883, members of the Hebdomadal Council began to consider the financial implications of the proposal.[31]

Then, in February, Henry Smith died, and the keepership of the University Museum became vacant. The Pitt Rivers collection had lost an important Oxford sponsor; but it was about to gain another. Smith was succeeded as Keeper by Edward Burnett Tylor. Capitalizing on the momentum generated by the negotiations with Pitt Rivers, arrangements had already been made for Tylor to give two lectures on anthropology at the University Museum, ‘with a view to some permanent appointment coming afterwards’, as Rolleston had suggested years earlier.[32] The lectures took place, as planned, just a few days after Smith’s death. Now the vacant keepership raised new possibilities, and Tylor was immediately proposed for the position. A month and a day after Smith’s death, on 10 March 1883, Tylor was unanimously elected as his successor by the delegates of the University Museum.

Tylor did not take up his position until the following October, but his arrival signalled a new beginning for anthropology at Oxford; a fact neatly symbolized at his first meeting with the Museum delegates in October 1883 when there was a unanimous decision to spend £60 on a new display case for anthropological specimens.[33] Tylor began to publish lists of donations to the Museum in the University Gazette under the headings ‘Anatomy and Zoology’, ‘Geology’ and ‘Anthropology’, and many of the objects entered under the last category, which grew steadily each year, were presented by his own wide circle of correspondents and acquaintances.[34]

As Keeper of the Museum, Tylor did not yet hold a formal teaching position, but he became privy to the continuing negotiations with Pitt Rivers regarding his Deed of Gift to the University. Interestingly, in the summer of 1883, when the Deed had been finalized and the parties were simply waiting until a catalogue of the collection could be drawn up before signing, Pitt Rivers announced that he wanted to insert a new clause regarding the terms of his donation. It stipulated, ‘that a Lecturer shall be appointed by the University who shall yearly give Lectures at Oxford on Anthropology’. The General now refused to sign unless this condition was met.[35] Pitt Rivers’s late amendment regarding a lecturer may have been devised in partnership with the scientists at the University Museum who were trying to secure a teaching position for Tylor (although there is no direct evidence to support this theory). It is certainly true that because the University was eager to finalize the agreement, Pitt Rivers was able to bring some external pressure to bear on the decision to establish a teaching position in anthropology.

In November 1883, a new readership in anthropology was created by University decree, and in early December, Tylor was appointed to the position. He began lecturing and teaching in January 1884.[36] Four months later, the Deed of Gift was finally signed by Pitt Rivers. The news must have been greeted with some relief by authorities at the South Kensington Museum, where the collection was still being housed: it had been nearly three years since they had banned Pitt Rivers from adding new accessions. Staff at South Kensington set about making an inventory in preparation for the collection’s move to Oxford.[37] Work began on building the new extension to the University Museum in the spring of 1885, and in the summer, the displays at South Kensington were closed to the public. Moseley and Tylor supervised the packing and transfer of the collection to its new home.[38] In October, Moseley employed one of his young graduates, Henry Balfour, as his assistant, and the long process of organizing, researching and exhibiting the collection in its new home began in earnest.

By the middle of 1884, the formal negotiations between Pitt Rivers and Oxford had drawn to a close. The lobbyists at Oxford had successfully brought Tylor to Oxford and, as a result of the momentum generated by discussions with Pitt Rivers, had guaranteed a more permanent place for anthropology at the University with a new readership in the subject. The Pitt Rivers collection, as a material asset demanding accommodation, financial investment and staff, had forged a physical and intellectual space for anthropology within the University. Acland, Moseley and their colleagues had cause to congratulate themselves after two years of politicking and petitioning. However, the location of this new site – at the heart of the scientific community, itself physically and administratively distinct from the older disciplines at Oxford which were based in the Colleges – was to have long-term ramifications for the development of anthropology at Oxford.

The institutional implications of Pitt Rivers’s ambition

Pitt Rivers and his Oxford contemporaries had ensured that his collection would remain a distinct entity at Oxford, located deep within the University’s science area, to be gradually surrounded by new laboratories and scientific teaching facilities as the twentieth century progressed and the University Museum was outgrown. If the collection had been merged with those at the Ashmolean, the resulting demarcation, which would have seen nature and science at the University Museum and culture and art at the Ashmolean/Pitt Rivers (as Fortnum had suggested), would, perhaps, have prefigured our current intellectual predispositions more closely. Today, it seems intuitive to make a distinction between the natural world and man-made artefacts,[39] and anthropology is generally accepted as a social science, with emphasis placed on the ‘social’ rather than the ‘science’. But Pitt Rivers argued that culture, particularly ‘primitive’ culture, could be studied in the same way as nature and obeyed the laws of evolution. ‘The principles of variation and natural selection have established a bond of union between the physical and culture sciences which can never be broken. History is but another term for evolution ....’[40] The ‘arts’ that Pitt Rivers collected, especially ‘primitive’ arts, were properly the subject of science.

When it came to describing the intellectual character of his collection, the General, it seems, was also motivated by a concern for his own personal legacy. Since negotiations had begun with South Kensington in 1880, Pitt Rivers had been concerned that his collection should not lose its individual identity. When the South Kensington authorities were considering whether to make a more permanent arrangement for it in 1881, the suggestion was made that the collection would be better placed with the ethnological collections at the British Museum. Pitt Rivers countered that his collection was in no sense ‘ethnological’, but was a museum of primitive arts, designed to show their historical development.[41] Such a collection would better suit the Museum at South Kensington, which focused on the history of art, design and industry. However, this claim directly contradicted his initial offer of an ‘ethnological collection’, and was undermined by his private concerns, expressed earlier in a letter to Franks, that South Kensington was too focused on ‘aesthetics’ and not ‘scientific’ enough for his purposes.[42]

In reality, Pitt Rivers was worried that the British Museum,a far more obvious choice when it came to housing his collection, would not, ‘adapt itself to the peculiar conditions and accept the [Pitt Rivers] Museum subject to my having the control of it during my life’.[43] He may have had reservations regarding the intellectual ethos at South Kensington, but he had a better chance of retaining some control over his collection if it was installed there permanently.[44] Similar anxieties surfaced in the wake of his Oxford negotiations, this time regarding the nature of the relationship between his collection and the Ashmolean Museum.

The Ashmolean was, by the mid-1880s, entering a period of regeneration. The upper room of the building on Broad Street had been reinstated in early 1882, and work began on cleaning, redecorating and displaying material that previously had been forced into storage. An entrance fee was re-established to help meet the costs of renovation, and negotiations were underway for a new chair in classical archaeology and art, with support from Lincoln College. In this spirit of reinvigoration, the visitors of the Ashmolean resolved in November 1883, ‘That the Curators are willing to cooperate in any redistribution of the Antiquities and Works of Art in Oxford which the University may deem expedient’.[45]

Soon afterwards, in June 1884, the archaeologist Arthur John Evans (1851–1941) was appointed Keeper of the Ashmolean. Evans came to his post just a few weeks after Pitt Rivers had signed his Deed of Gift to the University, and he was troubled by the implications of the decision to establish a separate institution for anthropology and archaeology within the University Museum, because it would mean two homes for archaeology at the University. One of Evans’s first jobs as keeper was to oversee the transfer of valuable ethnographic material from the Ashmolean to the Pitt Rivers in line with the new arrangements. But he argued that it was ‘impossible to lay down any hard and fast lines of distinction between objects of Archaeological and Anthropological interest’. Nonetheless, it was too late to make any changes. He had to conclude that while, ‘it might be difficult to justify theoretically the separation of the savage implements and appliances from the Antiquities of our [Ashmolean] Museum, and their transfer to a wholly different building ... the measure is necessitated by present conditions of space and convenience’.

Evans accepted the division only as a ‘working principle’. With this in mind, he proposed that the Ashmolean should have priority over ‘objects illustrative of the arts and history of Great Britain, of the European peoples, and of those parts of Asia and the Mediterranean world with which they are historically and, in some cases, ethnographically bound’, while the Pitt Rivers Museum took precedence as to material from, ‘the more remote parts of the world’.[46] The Ashmolean possessed ethnographic objects – particularly those in the Tradescant collection and in the Forster collection made during Captain Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific – that were amongst the most valuable of their kind in the world. Evans was reluctant to give them up. In fact, he later decided to retain most of the Tradescant collection intact, on the grounds that it was part of the founding collection of the Ashmolean and should not be divided.

When Pitt Rivers heard about developments at the Ashmolean in 1884, he became agitated. He had read a report outlining Evans’s inaugural address at Oxford and was concerned that ‘he is endeavouring to do at the Ashmolean exactly what I have done in my collections and that the development of art will have two homes instead of one at Oxford’. In a letter to Tylor, he suggested, by way of a solution to this problem, that the Ashmolean should concern itself with ‘advanced industries’, while the Pitt Rivers concentrated on ‘primitive industries’, which would ensure that while, ‘the subjects might slightly overlap they would not clash’.[47] Even though this proposition was in complete accord with Evans’s own interpretation of the situation, Pitt Rivers became worried that Evans seemed to be outlining a museum that dealt with all human industries ‘from the most primitive forward’. He went on to state, in an effort to differentiate his collection from the collections at the Ashmolean, that his Museum was ‘not anthropological nor ethnographic. It is a museum of primitive industries [-] anthropology[,] the study of man[,] is a distinct subject’. He concluded, despairingly: ‘It is a beastly mess and I wish I had never had anything to do with it’.[48]

There can be little doubt that Pitt Rivers’s discontent was caused by his desire to keep his collection separate and distinctive. The regeneration of the Ashmolean Museum seemed to encroach on his ambitions as a benefactor and innovator at the University. In this context, he tried to promote his collection as a specialized branch of anthropology, dealing with the arts and industries of ‘primitive’ man, rather than the whole history of humankind. But this was the ‘working principle’ Evans had also settled upon, albeit reluctantly, given the recently signed Deed of Gift and the building work now planned for the back of the University Museum. The physical location of the new Pitt Rivers building gave Evans and his colleagues little choice. Ethnographic material was destined for the new ‘Museum in the Parks’ while classical antiquities joined the Ashmolean’s collections on Broad Street.

Realigning Oxford’s archaeology and ethnography collections

The Ashmolean’s reincarnation as a centre for art and archaeology, coupled with the arrival of the Pitt Rivers collection in Oxford, triggered a significant reorganization of the University’s collections. Despite Evans’s misgivings, the first of around 3,000 objects were transferred from the Ashmolean to the Pitt Rivers Museum in September 1885. More objects went in November, and the majority were moved between February and June 1886.[49] In return, the Ashmolean received archaeological material from the University Museum and the Bodleian Library. On the whole, the transfers conformed to Evans’s suggestions for the most appropriate reallocation of objects, which meant that little European material was transferred to the Pitt Rivers. The two anthropological catalogues that were drawn up by Edward Evans, Assistant Keeper at the Ashmolean, in preparation for the transfers to the Pitt Rivers covered, ‘Asiatic, African, Esquimaux and American’ material and objects from, ‘New Zealand, Australia and South Pacific Islands, etc’. Only eighty-nine of the artefacts transferred from the Ashmolean to the Pitt Rivers were of probable European origin – a varied group of objects, some clothes, some domestic utensils, some writing tools, many of them from Turkey, along with a small group of model boats from the UK.[50]>

This bias against European artefacts is all the more striking when one considers that over 50% of the collection that Pitt Rivers donated to Oxford was actually of European origin – around 11,000 objects in all. Pitt Rivers’s interest in European prehistory was overwhelmingly evident in his collection. Over 9,500 objects in the Oxford collection were from archaeological sites in Europe; most were from the UK, but there were also large archaeological collections from France, Ireland, Switzerland and Denmark, and slightly smaller collections from Italy, Greece and Cyprus. Tools, weapons and pottery dominated the archaeology collection, but Pitt Rivers was also interested in the history of art and personal ornament. He had a section in his collection, for example, dealing with ‘Human Form in Barbaric and Civilised Art’, which included a number of Greco-Roman bronze figurines. Another section dealt with ‘Personal Ornaments – Penannular and Ring brooches’ and included a number of bronze fibulae from Italy and Greece. Pitt Rivers collected ancient glass vessels, decorative weapons and bronze helmets, European beads, bracelets and ornaments: in short, many objects that would have been equally at home amongst the artefacts in the Ashmolean Museum.

This strong emphasis on European archaeology did not endure. From the late 1880s onwards, the relative size of the European collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum declined, and by 1945, Europe, Africa and Asia each accounted for around a quarter of the collections at the Museum. Ethnographic accessions immediately began to outstrip archaeological additions once the collection was installed in Oxford, and by the Second World War well over 50% of the collections were ethnographic.[51] This shift in emphasis may have been due partly to the new context in which the collections developed at Oxford University: the Pitt Rivers Museum now grew in parallel with the archaeological collections at the Ashmolean which specialized in European prehistory and archaeology.

It was understandable that Arthur Evans was not altogether content with an arrangement that saw archaeology and anthropology divided between two institutions at Oxford. The division seems even more arbitrary today, when its basis is recognized as little more than a value judgement regarding how ‘civilized’ a society was deemed to be: stone tools, arrows and blowguns belonged in the Pitt Rivers Museum; Greek and Roman vases and figurines were better suited to the Ashmolean. The division between the study of ‘civilized’ societies (primarily European and Asian cultures exhibiting a high degree of internal social and political differentiation) and ‘primitive’ societies (primarily cultures with relatively simple technological traditions) was given physical manifestation and administrative momentum once each subject area had its own building, with discrete collections and staff. Now, different institutions would be responsible for the study of ‘primitive’ and ‘civilized’ peoples at Oxford, each attracting its own set of donors, accessions, academic experts and visitors. An intellectual distinction – at once peculiar to its time and unsatisfactory to some of those who were obliged to support it – had been given institutional expression.

Oxford anthropology takes shape in the twentieth century

The opportunity for a single museum of archaeology and anthropology, dealing with the entirety of human cultural diversity, was obstructed by Pitt Rivers’s determination that his collection should not be amalgamated with the existing Ashmolean Museum, and the fact that his views were supported by a number of Oxford scientists with ambitions to draw anthropology into their academic remit. But the enthusiasm with which Moseley and his scientific colleagues pursued their goal to bring anthropology to Oxford may well have hindered plans for formal examinations in the subject by demarcating it as a science. Pitt Rivers’s collection may have been accepted as a scientific exercise in the classification of cultural products, but other members of the University were not willing to accept anthropology’s broader credentials as an integrated and self-contained scientific discipline. Tylor brought a proposal for a final honour school in anthropology before the Hebdomadal Council in 1895, but it was not supported by Convocation,[52] primarily because its broad subject matter appeared to threaten teaching in classics and theology. As van Keuren has pointed outs ‘Inasmuch as anthropology took human history, arts, religion, social customs, and philosophy as part of its own subject matter, it was bound to produce confrontations with both long-established and new-born study areas which claimed the same subject matter’.[53]

Much of the opposition to Tylor’s scheme centred on the argument that the study of culture should be part of the Greats School (classics) rather than part of the natural sciences, but this possibility had been circumvented by the location of the Pitt Rivers Museum and Tylor’s position as Keeper of the University Museum. In the meantime, anthropology could be taken as a special subject only within the honour school of natural science.

In 1905, a Committee for Anthropology was established to oversee a graduate diploma in the subject, but men like Robert Ranulph Marett (1866–1943) and John Linton Myres (1869–1954), who were among those responsible for establishing the syllabus, gradually acknowledged that anthropology had to focus on the study of ‘more remote and less civilized peoples’, since other aspects of human culture and history were studied elsewhere.[54] Pitt Rivers’s contention in 1884 that he had specialized in ‘primitive industries’ haunted later attempts to carve out a niche for anthropology within the University system. Anthropology at Oxford came to inhabit an intellectual space not occupied by existing disciplines like classical history, theology and law, namely – as Pitt Rivers himself had decreed – the study of ‘primitive’ societies.

For many years, the Pitt Rivers Museum and the University Museum were the main sites for anthropological teaching at Oxford. Some tutorials were given in college rooms, but students came to the University Museum to hear Tylor’s lectures, to study the human anatomy collections and to listen to Henry Balfour teach on the artefacts in the Pitt Rivers Museum. Following Tylor’s retirement, Marett became reader in social anthropology in 1910, and taught in his rooms at Exeter College. Not until 1914 was accommodation provided on Broad Street and permission given to use the name Department of Social Anthropology. Moreover, the location of the Pitt Rivers collection guaranteed a broad base for the subject at Oxford well into the twentieth century. From the early 1900s onwards, Oxford anthropology students were expected to complete courses in physical anthropology (including zoology and palaeontology), archaeology, comparative ethnology, sociology and technology (which was taken to mean the origin, development and distribution of arts and industries). Many of these courses were taught in the Museum long after the Second World War, even though anthropologists elsewhere were increasingly concerned with the study of social relationships rather than collections of objects, and museums were now usually overlooked in favour of intensive study ‘in the field’.

Only with the establishment of the Human Sciences degree in 1969, followed by the Archaeology and Anthropology degree in 1991, was anthropology given full representation in undergraduate examinations at Oxford. And it is surely no coincidence that when this recognition did finally come, an interdisciplinary ethos shaped teaching and examinations in anthropology. Indeed, the Human Sciences course – which studies humans as a ‘biological, social and cultural species’, and requires students to show some knowledge of ecology, genetics, physiology, sociology, evolution and anthropology – would no doubt have delighted Henry Acland and his colleagues at the University Museum.


At the time of Pitt Rivers’s donation to Oxford, ethnographic museums were vital to the production of anthropological knowledge. Objects, sent to these institutions from all over the world by collectors, tradesmen, government employees and adventurers, constituted a form of evidence upon which professional anthropologists could base their theories. Artefacts provided a direct link between the scholar, who need not feel any compulsion to leave the comfort of his armchair, and the distant societies he was so intent on studying. Museums were, in today’s terms, the laboratories where this data could be sorted, compared, analysed, classified and presented to the wider world.[55]

Those scholars at the University of Oxford who engineered the arrival of the Pitt Rivers collection in the early 1880s did not think of it as an accessory to the real anthropological research that was going on elsewhere. They recognized that the collection would provide a physical and intellectual foundation for this young discipline. The fact that the collection was an enormously valuable and prestigious entity in its own right, difficult for the University to refuse, gave their arguments added weight. If it required a new home in Oxford, then so did anthropology as an intellectual pursuit, because the material and the intellectual were, in this particular context, indistinguishable.

The site chosen for anthropology’s new home would have long-term consequences on the academic development of the subject. The subsequent exchange of material between the Ashmolean and the Pitt Rivers Museum confirmed intellectual divisions at Oxford that had been open to question from the start, and from now on the two institutions could hardly avoid carving out their identities in relation to each other. As a general rule, one would specialize in ‘civilized’ cultures, and the other in ‘primitive’ societies. The study of anthropology and archaeology was now permanently distributed between distinct Oxford institutions. This situation hampered later efforts to streamline the syllabus for the Oxford diploma in anthropology, and, perhaps, contributed to the struggles for formal recognition within the examination system which would plague Oxford anthropology for much of the twentieth century. If the Pitt Rivers collection had provided a perfect vehicle for Moseley and his colleagues to promote anthropology, it also helped to harden the intellectual shape of the subject at Oxford in ways that frustrated later generations of anthropologists. Only in recent years, as the study of material culture has regained its popularity within anthropology and interdisciplinary approaches come back into vogue, has the strength of the intellectual landscape in Oxford come into its own again.

Our knowledge of the world around us is generated, in part, by the material qualities of the things we encounter in our lives. Pitt Rivers sought to understand the development of human culture and ideas through the objects he collected. Today’s researchers study the artefacts in the Museum for similar underlying reasons, although their theoretical ideas may have little in common with those advocated by Pitt Rivers. Meanwhile, his collection – itself a physical entity, with quantifiable coordinates, geographically rooted in its purpose-built museum and grown ten times as large since 1884 – is also a enduring feature of the intellectual landscape within Oxford and beyond.


The research for this paper was undertaken during the Relational Museum Project (2002–6) at the Pitt Rivers Museum, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. My thanks to Chris Gosden, Alison Petch and Jeremy Coote for their advice and comments on earlier drafts.

Notes and references

1 Although it is known today as the University Museum of Natural History, 120 years ago, it was referred to simply as the University Museum and that is the title I use here.

2 M. Bowden, Pitt Rivers: The Life and Archaeological Work of Lt. General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers DCL FRS FSA (Cambridge, 1991). W. R. Chapman, ‘Pitt Rivers and his collection, 18741883: the chronicle of a gift horse’, in B. A. L. Cranstone and S. Seidenberg (eds.), The General’s Gift – A Celebration of the Pitt Rivers Museum Centenary 18841984, Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford Occasional Paper (Oxford, 1984), pp. 625. W. R. Chapman, ‘The Pitt Rivers collection’, in M. G. Brock and M. C. Curthoys (eds.), The History of the University of Oxford vol. VII, Nineteenth Century Oxford, Part ii (Oxford, 2000), pp. 499503. A. Petch, ‘Man as he was and Man as he is’. General Pitt Rivers’ collections’, Journal of the History of Collections 10 (1998), pp. 7585. M. W. Thompson, General Pitt Rivers: Evolution and Archaeology in the Nineteenth Century (Bradford-on-Avon, 1977).

3 R. Fox, ‘The University Museum and Oxford science, 1850–1880’, in M. G. Brock and M. C. Curthoys (eds.), The History of the University of Oxford vol. VII, Nineteenth Century Oxford, Part i (Oxford, 1997), p. 643. See also R. Yeo, ‘Scientific method and the image of science 18311891’, in R. MacLeod and P. Collins (eds.), Parliament of Science: The British Association for the Advancement of Science 18311981 (Northwood, 1981), pp. 6588.

4 Letter from Acland to the Dean of Christ Church, 16 June 1889. 1885⁄1 History of OUMNH 18741902 Box 2, Oxford University Museum of Natural History Archives.

5 E. B. Tylor, ‘The Life of Dr. Rolleston’, in W. Turner (ed.), Scientific Papers and Addresses by George Rolleston, M.D., F.R.S. (Oxford, 1884), pp. xlii–xliii.

6J. Coote, ‘An interim report on a previously unknown collection from Cook’s first voyage: the Christ Church collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford’, Journal of Museum Ethnography 17 (2004), pp. 11121. J. Coote, Curiosities from the Endeavour: A Forgotten Collection (Whitby, 2004).

7 The items referred to here, including the Lawes collection, were later recorded in the accession books at the Pitt Rivers Museum as being ‘given by Dr. Rolleston’ to the University Museum or labelled by him. More information can be found on the Museum’s online database at html. A letter from E. H. Man, written in 1881, refers to a Nicobarese image intended for the University Museum, ‘which I have brought to England at Prof. Rolleston’s request ...’ (B13, Tylor Papers, Pitt Rivers Museum Manuscript Collections). Some 285 of the objects in the Man collection now at the Pitt Rivers Museum were originally sent to the University Museum and only later transferred.

8 The minutes taken at meetings of the Delegates of the Oxford University Museum record arrangements for display cases to hold prehistoric antiquities in November 1875; a grant request for the purchase of a small anthropological collection in March 1878; and Rolleston receiving a collection of antiquities from Kertch and a prehistoric collection from Ireland in November 1880 and organizing accommodation for them in the Museum’s court (file UM/M/1/4, Oxford University Archives). Similar arrangements were made for ethnographic material after Rolleston’s death in 1881. We know, for example, that four Peruvian mummies given to the University Museum by Henry Acland’s son, William Alison Dyke Acland, were opened and examined in 1882, and ‘a series of objects of ethnological interest obtained from them [were put] on view in the University Museum’ (Oxford University Gazette, no. 436 (1882), p. 160). Henry Moseley also referred to the use of a display case ‘formerly used for ethnological objects in the General Museum’ in a letter to the Secretary of the University Chest in November 1886 (file UC/FF/602/3, Oxford University Archives).

9 W. H. Flower, ‘Obituary notices of fellows deceased’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 33 (18812), pp. xxiv–xxv.

10 Chapman, op. cit. [1984] (note 2), p. 17.

11 Letter from Pitt Rivers to Franks, 27June 1880. Foundation Volume, Pitt Rivers Museum Manuscript Collections.

12 Chapman, op. cit. [1984] (note 2), p. 17.

13 Letter from Pitt Rivers to Acland, 10 May 1882. Acland papers, d. 92, fols. 756, Bodleian Library.

14 Letter from Tylor to Pitt Rivers, 24 September 1882. Pitt Rivers papers, L8, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

15 Letter from Moseley to Franks, 30 March 1881. Foundation Volume, Pitt Rivers Museum Manuscript Collections.

16 Westwood’s letters to South Kensington requesting advice on the amount of space required to house the collection and its arrangement in December 1882 can be found in file UM/ C/3/3 at the Oxford University Archives.

17 Letter from Moseley to Franks, 30 March 1881. Foundation Volume, Pitt Rivers Museum Manuscript Collections.

18 Letter from Pitt Rivers to Acland, 10 May 1882. Acland papers, d. 92, fols. 7990, Bodleian Library.

19 A. H. Lane Fox [Pitt Rivers], ‘On the principles of classification adopted in the arrangement of his anthropological collection, now exhibited in the Bethnal Green Museum’, Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 6 (1874), p. 294. See also W. R. Chapman, ‘Arranging ethnology: A. H. L. F. Pitt Rivers and the typological tradition’, in G. W. Stocking (ed.), Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture (Wisconsin, 1985), pp. 1548.

20 A. H. Lane Fox [Pitt Rivers], Catalogue of the Anthropological Collection Lent by Colonel Lane Fox for Exhibition in the Bethnal Green Branch of the South Kensington Museum, June 1874 (London, 1877), p. xii.

21 Letter from Pitt Rivers to Acland, 21 May 1882. Acland papers, d. 92, fols. 756, Bodleian Library.

22 See A. MacGregor, ‘The Ashmolean as a museum of natural history, 16831860’, Journal of the History of Collections 13 (2001), pp. 12544.

23 A. MacGregor, ‘The Ashmolean Museum’, in Brock and Curthoys, op. cit. (note 3), p. 602.

24 The Hebdomadal Council was the chief executive body for the University of Oxford.

25 G. J. Chester, Notes on the Present and Future of the Archaeological Collections of the University of Oxford (Oxford, 1881). R. F. Ovenell, The Ashmolean Museum 16831894 (Oxford, 1986), pp. 2456.

26 Letter from Pitt Rivers to Acland, 21 May 1882. Acland papers, d. 92, fols. 756, Bodleian Library.

27 Ovenell, op. cit. (note 25), pp. 243, 246.

28 Deed of Gift for the Pitt Rivers’ Collection. File wpβ/2/17, Oxford University Archives.

29Hebdomadal Council meeting minutes 187996, file HC/1/2/3, Oxford University Archives.

30 Report to the Hebdomadal Council, University of Oxford, 19 January 1883. Foundation Volume, Pitt Rivers Museum Manuscript Collections.

31Hebdomadal Council meeting minutes 187996, file HC/1/2/3, and Oxford University Museum papers, file UM/C/3/3, Oxford University Archives.

32 Tylor to Pitt Rivers, op. cit. (note 14).

33 Delegates of the Oxford University Museum meeting minutes, file UM/M/1/4, Oxford University Archives.

34 C. Gosden and F. Larson, Knowing Things: Exploring the Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum 18841945 (Oxford, forthcoming), ch. 3.

35 Letters from Morrell & Son, Solicitors, to William Gamlen, Secretary of the University Chest, 6 July and 27 July 1883. File UC/FF/60/2/1, Oxford University Archives.

36 Oxford University Gazette 14 no. 467 (1883), p. 89 and no. 474 (1884), p. 223. Hebdomadal Council meeting minutes 187996, file HC/1/2/3, Oxford University Archives. Students could take anthropology as a special subject in the Natural Sciences degree, which had been established in 1850. Although members of the University attended Tylor’s lectures without charge, a termly fee was levied for further informal instruction. This was customary for natural science subjects.

37 Letter from G. F. Duncombe to Pitt Rivers, 30 May 1883. Pitt Rivers papers, P132, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

38 Letters from Moseley to William Gamlen, Secretary of the University Chest, May 1885 to February 1886. Files UC/FF/60/2/2 and UC/FF/60/2/3, Oxford University Archives.

39 The perceived dualism of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ is, however, being challenged by scholars working in Science and Technology Studies, many of whom are influenced by Bruno Latour, by cognitive scientists like Andy Clark and George Lakoff, by anthropologists like Tim Ingold and Christina Toren and by geographers like Doreen Massey and Nigel Thrift.

40 A. H. Lane Fox [Pitt Rivers], ‘On the evolution of culture’, Proceedings of the Royal Institution 7 (1875), pp. 119. Reprinted in J. L. Myres (ed.), The Evolution of Culture and Other Essays by the Late Lt.-Gen. A. Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (Oxford, 1906), p. 24.

41 Letter from Pitt Rivers to the Daily News, 1 August 1881. Pitt Rivers papers, P137, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

42 Letter from Pitt Rivers to Franks, 1 July 1880. Foundation Volume, Pitt Rivers Museum Manuscript Collections.

43 Ibid.

44 In the event, Pitt Rivers had very little to do with his collection after he gave it to Oxford, when is attention became focused on the museum he later founded in Farnham, Dorset. The records suggest that his relations with Oxford during the late 1880s and 1890s were sporadic, distant and strained. Bowden, op. cit. (note 2), Petch, op. cit. (note 2), Thompson, op. cit. (note 2).

45 Ovenell, op. cit. (note 25), pp. 2469.

46 A. Evans, The Ashmolean Museum and the Archaeological Collections of the University (Oxford, 1884), pp. 4,5.

47 Letter from Pitt Rivers to Tylor, 27 November 1884. File UM/C/3/4, Oxford University Archives.

48 Ibid.

49 E. Evans, ‘List of Anthropological objects transferred from the Ashmolean to the Pitt Rivers Museum’, 2 vols., (1884). Pitt Rivers Museum.

50 This research was undertaken as part of the ESRC-funded ‘Relational Museum’ project at the Pitt Rivers Museum, 20026. The computerized catalogues of the collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum can be consulted online at

51 Ibid., and Gosden and Larson, op. cit. (note 34).

52 Convocation is the deliberative body of the University comprising all Oxford MAs.

53 D. van Keuren, ‘From natural history to social science: disciplinary development and redefinition in British anthropology, 18601910’, in J. Brown and D. van Keuren (eds.), The Estate of Social Knowledge (Baltimore, 1991), p. 56.

54 Ibid., p.57.

55 See F. Larson, ‘Anthropology as comparative anatomy? Reflecting on the study of material in the late 1800s and the early 1900s’, Journal of Material Culture 12 (2007), pp. 89112.

Paper transferred in November 2011.

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