17. Report of the Curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum (Department of Ethnology) for the year ending 31 July 1943

Curator: T.K.Penniman, M.A., Trinity College.
University Demonstrator and Lecturer in Ethnology: B.M.Blackwood, B.Sc., M.A., Somerville College.

Our pupils and friends in many parts of the world have received with last year’s report the account of a memorial meeting for the late Rector of Exeter College, and have realized with sadness that the last of our great triumvirate of teachers, Thompson, Balfour, and Marett, has gone. After the tragic and premature death of Dr. Buxton, we alone of their pupils are left to carry on their work here. A prime necessity of true education is the contemplation of greatness of spirit and achievement, and generous emulation of such qualities. This our teachers afforded in full measure, and holding their examples before us, we take heart to continue.

In one project that we have long had at heart we have made a beginning. The first of our Occasional Papers on Technology, edited by the Curator and Demonstrator, has been published for the Museum by the University Press, and can be obtained from the Museum at a cost of five shillings. This paper on ‘The Manufacture of a Flint Arrow-head by Quartzite Hammerstone’ is by Sir Francis Knowles, who used only the tools employed by ancient peoples and their modern primitive counterparts, of whose techniques he has a wide knowledge. The results of his work, including the hammer-stones, bone and antler pressure-flakers, stages of work, comparative material, and pictorial screen, form an addition to our series of Stone Age Techniques, preceded by an exhibition of specimens and illustrating showing the techniques of Edge-flake (Clacton), Topflake (Levallois), and Side-flake (prismatic) cores and the types of tools made from them, together with an unusually complete display of the Brandon industry. Screens and specimens illustrating Palaeolithic and Neolithic axe and adze-making are nearly ready, the material being largely taken from work and collections chosen by Sir Francis Knowles, and from specimens collected and observations and photographs made by Miss Blackwood in the interior of New Guinea. We hope and will endeavour, to raise money from time to time to continue to send out from the Museum publications of observation and experiment on techniques of dealing not only with stone, but with other raw materials in the production of useful or beautiful artefacts, and as this is a Department in which Archaeology and Ethnology are taught, some time to start a series of Occasional Papers on Archaeology and Ethnology.

Many of our collections ought to be published. Mr. Robins, author of The Story of the Lamp, has by now catalogued about 1,200 lamps in our series illustrating illumination and fire-making at all times and in all areas, and considers it one of the largest and best in the world, and about the least accessible, through lack of space and publication. The same might be said of our Musical Instruments, numbering over 4,000 already catalogued on cards or in accessions books.

To the section on Techniques the Curator has added a display of the early metallurgy of copper and bronze, and in that on Industries of the Stone and Early Metal Ages has completed 26 screens with attendant exhibition of specimens and storage, making 33 exhibitions out of the 80 planned. So far these represent the Lower, Middle, and Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Neolithic and Chalcolithic in some parts of the Old World, and a beginning on the industries of peoples in a stone age when discovered by Europeans. Eight more are nearly ready, and about 20 are roughed out. Several tons of stone implements have been sorted and arranged, and so far 160 photographs chosen by the Curator and taken by Miss Blackwood, and 120 drawings in colour and pen and ink by the Curator and Sir Francis Knowles, have been framed and glazed by Mr. Walters, and exhibited. This year, Mr. Walters and Mr. Whiting found material for the screens in the false back of the Cross-bow case and in the section on Agriculture, and took the occasion to clean, restore, and rearrange these exhibitions under the Curator’s direction. St. John’s College gave a case in which we have displayed the models illustrating Land Transport in the Court, and this released three small cases which the staff made into one large one, thus giving space to spread out an exhibition of Agriculture, Horticulture, and the Preparation of Food. The arrangement of Cross-bows is clear to the layman, but that of Agriculture and Food-preparation is still too crowded for all except a determined student to follow. With scanty storage and exhibition space we find that exhibited storage in places where we look daily is safer for the welfare of specimens than over-crowded storage out of sight. Among other exhibitions we may mention Mr. Turner’s rearrangement and relabelling with much additional information of the case on the Treatment of Dead Enemies, other than Naga, and Miss Nevell’s arrangement of an exhibition illustrating the making of Pillow-lace, to which she generously contributed specimens and considerable labour. The cost of moving and refitting cases, apart from work done by ourselves, was met by a grant from the Maintenance Fund by the Delegates of the University Museum.

Teaching, as always, held first claim on our attention. The Curator’s one-year course on the Origins of Civilization and one-term course on Race, Culture, and Environment, and special tuition were given to students of the Honour School of Geography, and much informal advice to research students. At the request of pupils in the Geography School Miss Blackwood enlarged her Ethnological Survey of the World to two lectures weekly throughout the year, and in connexion with this and the Curator’s revised lectures made and added about 500 lantern slides to our permanent collection. Our thanks are due to Mrs. Murray Chapman for lending negatives from the New Hebrides, Mr. G. E. Harvey for Burmese negatives, and to Professor Champion for the gift of Malayan photographs. All of our negatives and photographs have been arranged, and Miss Blackwood has prepared a handlist of the negatives, a useful pendant to her Short Directory of the Series in the Pitt Rivers Museum, which she annually revises. This will always be valuable for ready reference, even when the main index, on which the Curator, Miss Blackwood, and Mrs. Maspero have continued to work, has reached something like completion. Though only about a tenth of the million cards required have been written, the index is of considerable use.

Over half of the large Jeffreys West African collection sent by the Wellcome Museum at the end of last year has been unpacked, and about a third has been entered by Dr. Meinhard, who has also identified and entered arrears discovered during last year’s rearrangement of the iron shed. Much of Mr. Walter’s time has been occupied in restoring the ravages of years in packing cases and travel. He has mended pottery and treated wooden specimens for dry-rot in the most admirable way, assisted by Mr. Whiting, and has exercised his usual care in supervising the health of the great variety of materials on exhibition and in storage.

Among publications and special lectures may be mentioned the Curator’s conclusion of an argument by ‘An unusual flint implement in the Seligman collection’, Man, 61 1943, a review of Morris and Burgh, Anasazi Basketry, Man, 91, 1942, a review of Murphy’s Lamps of Anthropology for Philosophy (in press) , obituaries of R.R. Marett in the account of a Memorial Meeting of the University Anthropological Society on 4 March 1943, and in Man (in press), and ‘The Ethics of Dr. Julian Huxley’, The Hibbert Journal (in press). Publication of work on Ivory must await a plentiful supply of good plate-paper. Miss Blackwood has published ‘Ethnology, Folk-lore and Popular Art’ in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, iv, 3, Dec. 1942, and an obituary of Dr. Marett for the Memorial Meeting, lectured on the Solomon Islands for the Ashmolean Natural History Society’s series of Christmas Lectures, and on New Guinea for the Forum Club of London, done much informal teaching, co-operated with the Ashmolean Museum in archaeological work, and served on the Executive Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute. The Institute has recognized her many years of travel, research, and publication of work done in America, New Guinea, and Melanesia by the award of the Rivers Memorial Medal, an honour she richly deserves. Dr. Meinhard has continued work on hybrid fish-shaped gods in Yoruba and Benin art, and traced the evolution of the fish-siren motive in the art, literature, and folk-lore of Europe, India, and elsewhere, and prepared a shorter paper on spear-shaft straighteners from the Upper Nilotic regions and Somaliland from specimens in the Museum. Mr. Turner has in the press for Man a paper on ‘Counterfeit Tsantsas in the Pitt Rivers Museum’ and a review of Hallowell’s role of Conjuring in Saulteaux Society. He has lectured for the Ashmolean Natural History Society on the Indians of the southwest, prepared a lecture on Brazilian Ethnology for the Anglo-Brazilian Society, identified photographs for the Royal Anthropological Institute, and continued work on moosehair embroidery and identification of American Indian material in the Museum. We offer our grateful thanks in this connexion to Dr. Stirling, Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Dr. Fenton of the Bureau, Professor Speck of Pennsylvannia, and to Mr. Wilston of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Post Manager at Fort Smith for collecting specimens and data for us. Mr. Ford deserves our thanks for his admirable catalogue of the books in the Balfour Library. The Tylor, Buxton, and other books and the large collection of pamphlets await cataloguing and amalgamation.

Of accessions in general there is space to mention only a few. Professor Barnes has continued to develop our series illustrating human stone-flaking techniques with a great many specimens; Magdalen College School has enriched us with an old and good collection from New Guinea, Melanesia, and Australia; through the Wellcome Museum we have received Mrs. Kiddell’s Indian collection; another small but good collection of Indian weapons has come from Major How. Miss Durham has continued her generous gifts from the Balkans, and Miss Acland has sent a small collection made by her father Captain Acland and by Sir Henry Acland, both of whom have previously contributed to our collections. More examples from the Symons collection illustrating the History of Automatic Music have arrived, but account of them must again be held over.

Our friends and well-wishers will be glad to know that about 7,000 people have visited our exhibitions this year, and that every one of our roofs is at last sound and weather-proof.


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