Report of the Curator of the pitt-Rivers Museum for the year ending 31 July 1938

No structural work has been done in connexion with the Museum buildings during the year. I should like to point out that the glass roof of the main building urgently requires a thorough overhaul and more frequent inspection. There are defects in several places, and it will shortly become impossible to ensure the adequate protection of the interior of the building in wet weather. The question of the heating of the two upper floors in Museum House is also an urgent one, the present arrangements being extremely inadequate and unsatisfactory.

Owing to my prolonged illness, much of the work to be carried out during the year has had to be postponed, and there are considerable arrears both in equipment and in rearrangement which urgently need attention. The lack of a permanent, trained Assistant Curator has been felt more acutely than ever. The inadequacy of the staff and the want of storage-rooms, working-rooms, lecture-room, and dark-room are the chief obstacles to progress. Increased exhibition space is very urgently needed, in order that the growing series may be scientifically displayed, so as to ensure the full use of the very valuable collections for educational and scientific purposes.

Miss Beatrice Blackwood, University Demonstrator in Ethnology, returned in April after two years’ absence on ethnological field-work in New Guinea and New Britain. She has since been occupied in cataloguing and in preparing for publication the results of her expedition. She attended the Second International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences at Copenhagen in July, where she read a paper on ‘African Cranial Deformation in New Britain’.

Since January I have had the assistance of Dr. Heinrich Meinhardt, a distinguished orientalist from Berlin University, in the cataloguing of accessions. This has been made possible by a grant from the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (Academic Assistance Council), London, to whom I am grateful for the opportunity of obtaining his valuable services.

Sir Francis Knowles has very kindly continued his voluntary work of cataloguing some of the series, but most of the card-cataloguing has remained in abeyance for some years owing to lack of staff.

The usual three terms’ course of three lectures weekly on Prehistoric Archaeology and Comparative Technology was given to the students for the Diploma in Anthropology. During my illness these were undertaken by Mr. T.K. Penniman in the Hilary Term and by Miss Blackwood in the Trinity Term. Seven students attended. Miss Blackwood also gave a short course of three lectures to five students of the Burmese Colonial Service in Trinity Term.

The number of parties of school-children visiting the Museum has been well maintained. The Board of Education and other bodies have sent groups of teachers on several occasions. Increasing use is being made of the Collections for research purposes by students both from this country and from abroad, and it is to be regretted that there is no suitable accommodation for the prosecution of such work, which should be one of the main objects of the Museum.

Accessions to the Collections have been numerous this year. Under present circumstances it is impossible to list the items in detail. Among the most important are the following:- Ethnographic collection from the Naga Hills, Assam, including some very important material from an expedition into the uncontrolled area in the east of the Naga Hills. Presented by Mr. J.P. Mills. Specimens of weapons, &c., from the Mount Hagan area of New Guinea. Collected and presented by Mr. M. Leahy. Collections from various localities in New Guinea and New Britain, including an extensive series of stone implements. Presented by Miss B. Blackwood. Collection of wood carvings and other objects from the Belgian Congo, and of surgical implements and Materia Medica from the Aurés Mountains, N. Africa. Bequeathed by Capt. M.W. Hilton-Simpson. A fine collection of Ashanti gold-weights. Bequeathed by Capt. R.S. Rattray. Collection of wooden masks and other ritual objects from the Ibo and neighbouring tribes of Southern Nigeria. Presented by Mr. G.I. Jones. The Hoskold archaeological collection, chiefly pottery, but including some extremely interesting examples of stone work, from Northern Argentina. Lent by the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club.

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Supported by the John Fell OUP Research Fund


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