Bethnal Green Museum and the items from there that did not transfer to the University of Oxford

In 1874 Pitt-Rivers (then Augustus Henry Lane Fox) decided that he wished to display part of his collection publicly. The Bethnal Green branch of the South Kensington Museum displayed this collection from 1874 to 1878 when it was moved to South Kensington Museum. This collection was eventually transferred almost in entirety to the University of Oxford in 1884. However, it is not known whether all items were displayed at Bethnal Green / South Kensington Museums or whether some were also transferred from his private, undisplayed collection. It is known that 53.8 per cent (10543 objects) were displayed at some point in Bethnal Green Museum. It is known that 81.3 per cent (15934 objects) were displayed at some point in South Kensington Museum.

Some items which had been displayed at Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums were obviously transferred back to Pitt Rivers and retained by him. Not many of these are listed in the Cambridge University Library. It is known that Pitt-Rivers' objects were still being removed from South Kensington in January and February 1886, but these were sent to Pitt Rivers’ home address in London, rather than to Oxford:

Letter from G.F. Duncombe, South Kensington Museum to Pitt-Rivers dated 22 January 1886:

I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 17 instant and in reply to inform you that the printed book and a box of minerals have been returned to 4 Grosvenor Gardens in accordance with your request.
I am to enquire whether it is your wish that the residue of your Collection which the Oxford authorities left behind shall also be returned to you at the same address.”

Note on side by Pitt-Rivers, ‘Answered 30.1.1886 The objects to be sent to 4 Grosvenor Gardens'

List on back on South Kensington Museum headed paper which seems to list the residue sent on 5.2.1886 :

4 packing cases containing human or other bones, flint implements, fragments of pottery, chalk, plaster casts of brain and spear heads, plaster medallions etc etc
1 packing case containing Chinese fireworks various
1 packing case containing fragments of red sandstone conglomerate, and stone bored by ...
1 packing case containing 21 cocoa nut shells and 9 stuffed birds (moth eaten)
1 large piece of matting
1 folding box used for personal ornaments of savage races
1 plaster cast Human head
3 plaster casts human heads
1 fragment of plaster cast human head
1 map of world (torn)
2 boxes iron bound
1 case containing 2 preparations for skeletons of monkeys
1 tail of sting ray
1 straw dress
1 specimen of coarse bark rope
2 sticks for weaving
1 bag woven from sennit
2 fur hats canework frames
1 tent or chair cover, yellow work with fringe
1 straw petticoat
1 straw cloak [Japanese]
1 box with lock
1 black leather trunk studded with nails
1 box containing 2 large pieces of chalk
½ pod of monkey nut
1 gun case containing bullet mould, key for nipple and turnscrew and ramrod
1 straw or wicker basket containing fragments of shell and pottery
1 small case covered with bookbinders cloth
1 leather portmanteau containing hammer, screwdriver and 2 sets of pulleys
1 pair top boots (much torn
1 plaster cast of head (broken)
1 plaster cast mask (broken
3 empty cases and 2 hampers

"Returned loans” [Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, Pitt Rivers Papers, P133]


AP, 1 June 2010


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