Report of the Curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum for the year ending 31 July 1937

The progress of the Museum has been very seriously retarded during the year. This has been due in part to the loss of my Assistant, Mr. E.S. Thomas, who died on 9 June 1936, which has left me to cope with the whole administration and routine work unaided, an impossible task. Further, having had myself to spend some months in a nursing-home, my own work has suffered serious curtailment, and, as a result, arrears of ordinary routine-work have accumulated alarmingly. The Museum never has been provided with an adequate staff, and when a loss occurs in personnel, the administrative machinery is largely brought to a standstill for lack of trained assistance, continuity in the work is broken, and an impossible situation arises. To carry out the necessary routine-work with reasonable efficiency two Assistants at least with scientific training are essential, either of whom is capable of performing the other’s normal duties, at any rate temporarily, so as to tide over emergency periods. Without such assistance the objectives of the Museum cannot possibly be carried out. It is to be hoped that the University will take steps to make possible the appointment of a scientific Assistant-Curator, of the standing of a full-time University Demonstrator, and that a suitable man with scientific training may be found to occupy a somewhat more subordinate post on the staff.

During the past year some very necessary additions to the exhibition cases and cabinets have been made, both in the Top Gallery and in the Court, though such additions become annually more difficult to introduce, owing to the congestion due to lack of adequate space.

The state of Museum House, a portion of which was assigned as an annexe to the Pitt-Rivers Museum, is extremely bad, owing to lack of means of warming. Walls are disintegrating and ceilings tend to collapse through dampness. Unless an adequate heating system can be installed without delay the house will become untenable and serious damage to valuable specimens will be caused. The rooms at Museum House cannot be vacated until equivalent accommodation is provided elsewhere.

Some rearrangement of exhibited material has been carried out in several parts of the Museum and a great deal more has been partially effected but not completed through lack of time. With the exception of one series, the card-cataloguing of special collections has had to be stopped owing to the death of Mr. Thomas. Sir Francies Knowles has very kindly continued, as a volunteer helper, to catalogue the series upon which he was already engaged. His help is greatly appreciated.

Miss Beatrice M. Blackwood, who, as University Demonstrator in Ethnology, has been transferred to this Department, has been pursuing valuable field-researches in New Guinea and will not take up her work in the Museum until the spring of 1938. She has made valuable collections in New Guinea and in New Britain, which will be important accessions to the Museum.

The usual courses of lectures to students for the Diploma in Anthropology were given, Mr. T.K. Penniman having taken my place during the period of my enforced absence from ill health. Seven students attended the Diploma Course. I was unable to complete my course of lectures to the Probationers for the African and Malayan Civil Service Students, who numbered 36.

The number of parties of school-children visiting the Museum for educational purposes increases, and other educational institutions have sent groups of teachers and students for purposes of instruction. Numerous researchers have availed themselves of the valuable material in the collections.

As it is, under present circumstances, not possible to prepare a detailed list of the many accessions to the Museum Series, I must defer this until a future occasion. Many very important donations of specimens have been received from various benefactors, and several gaps in the series have been filled. It is hoped that a list of the past two years’ accessions may be appended to next year’s Report.


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Supported by the John Fell OUP Research Fund


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