15. Report of the Curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum (Department of Ethnology) for the year ending 31 July 1951

Curator: T.K. Penniman, M.A., Trinity College.
University Demonstrators and Lecturers in Ethnology: B.M. Blackwood, B.Sc., M.A., Somerville College; J.S.P. Bradford, M.A., Christ Church
The second season of the Apulia Expedition, working South Italy, was made possible by grants from the Society of Antiquaries, the Leverhulme Trustees, the British Academy, the Prehistoric Society, the University of London, the Craven Committee of the University of Oxford, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, the Ashmolean Museum, and from other Universities, Colleges, and national Societies, all of whom most generously responded to the appeal for funds issued by the Society of Antiquaries. In all, a sum of about £1,000 was raised. The Expedition, as in 1949, was based on the Pitt Rivers Museum, and sponsored by the Society of Antiquaries.

The Expedition left in mid-July and returned in mid-October. It completed its full programme of archaeological field-survey and trial-excavation of selected sites of various periods discovered from the air. The results of this first phase are now being prepared for publication.

The Expedition consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Bradford, Lord William Taylour, and an Italian assistente from the Soprintendenza alle Antichitá, and up to twelve workmen.

The sites excavated included the following: first, two important Neolithic villages, at Passo di Corvo and La Quercia. These, and others tested, have established the stratified sequence of the main pottery types in this important area of the Mediterranean. Second, completion of the excavation of a typical farm-site of the period of the Roman Republic, at Posta di Colle, and also the excavation of Roman vineyards, orchards roads, and road-junctions, which throw much light on the economy of the region. Third, test excavations in three abandoned medieval villages, to establish a stratified pottery sequence between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, and to establish the chronology of this important class of site. A useful beginning was made.

In addition to such excavations, a large number of new sites, of various periods, was visited and recorded. A valuable picture of the evolution of a typical Mediterranean peasantry is being built up by archaeological means.

The Expedition continued its work daily, apart from one day of national holiday, in temperatures frequently over 100 degrees in the shade. The Italian authorities and the British School at Rome co-operated helpfully, and a proportion of the finds, three crates, has been brought back, with official permission, to this country for eventual distribution.

This year has seen the publication of number 4 of our Occasional Papers on Technology (15s.), entitled Notes on the Prehistoric Metallurgy of Copper and Bronze in the Old World, by H.H. Coghlan, including an `Examination of Specimens from the Pitt Rivers Museum’ and `Bronze Castings in Ancient Moulds’, by E. Voce, Metallurgist of the Copper Development Association, as well as sections on Furnace-Bellows and Cire Perdue Casting by the Curator. The author has had some twenty years of forge, foundry, and laboratory experience in metallurgy, and has devoted many years to the primitive and prehistoric use of metals, his interest beginning over twenty-five years ago, when he had the opportunity to study native processes in Upper Burma. This book includes description and results of experimental work by the author and others on behalf of the Museum, and is illustrated from material in the Museum collections, photographed by Mr. K.H.H. Walters, or drawn by Mr. I.M. Allen. It forms a guide to the development of the craft from the earliest times to the introduction and practice of a developed and intelligent metallurgy. Like the three previous publications, The Manufacture of a Flint Arrow-Head by Quartzite Hammerstone, by Sir Francis H.S. Knowles, Bart. (at 5s.), The McDougall Collections of Indian Textiles from Guatemala and Mexico, by Laura E. Start (15s.), and The Technology of a Modern Stone Age People in New Guinea, by Beatrice Blackwood (10s.6d.), this has a steady sale, an indication that there is a considerable number of people desiring exact and detailed information of a sort that they can verify experimentally. Such experimental work has always been characteristic of this Museum, and is continuing. Future publications in the series are in hand, and announcements will be issued near the date of publication.

Considerable progress has been made in rearranging the exhibitions in the main Court near the entrance. By re-sorting several thousand cubic feet of materials in the iron shed, the Curator has been able to put in several ranges of cupboards, and to clear several large cases near the western end of the Court. Under the direction of Mr. H.F. Walters the Technical Staff changed the horrible matt black and polished black surrounding to a pleasant cream colour, and Mr. Walters, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Burden made a quantity of most ingenious and pleasing Perspex stands to take the place of the sad black cylinders and blocks which used to be considered appropriate. In these re-conditioned cases good things appear to be good, whereas the mass of accumulated blackness and overcrowding gives an impression of a procession of hearses loaded with junk, no matter how good the objects may be. The case nearest the door contains thirty-nine articles, chosen by Mr. Bradford to represent the finest examples of the aboriginal arts of Africa, America, Asia, and Oceania, in areas where the people have been un-influenced by the arts of the historic civilizations. This comparison of art styles represented in the Museum, arranged regionally within the subject, is entirely in harmony with the principles laid down by General Pitt Rivers. Mr K.H.H. Walters has taken excellent photographs of the objects in this case, and Mr. Bradford has prepared an article for the Illustrated London News entitled ‘Art Treasures in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford’, as a forerunner of a proposed book. Mr. Bradford was also responsible for the rearrangement of the cases devoted to Geometrical Form in Art and Animal Form in Art, again employing our Founder’s method of grouping by regions within the subject. Many beautiful things appeared to be beautiful once they were displayed with a little space about them and near objects of their own culture. The cases formerly devoted to wheel-made and hand-made pottery now show respectively a Chronological Type-Series of Pottery from Egypt and the Sudan, from the Neolithic of Badari to the Fung of the sixteenth to seventeenth century A.D., the Pottery, Recent and Modern, of West and North Africa, and the Pottery, Recent and Modern, of East and South Africa. During the arrangement of these three cases by Mr. Bradford, the Ashmolean Museum very kindly lent pottery from its Egyptian collections to fill some gaps in our series. The Curator at the same time arranged two series illustrating the techniques of African pottery-making by modelling and by coiling, and methods of decoration of pottery, and rearranged the exhibitions of Pueblo and of ancient South American pottery. The Curator was also responsible for completely redesigning the cases representing the Influence of Textiles on Design, and Containers of Food and Drink other than those of pottery, metal, and glass. The splendid complete series showing the Tandu Industry collected by Professor Henry Balfour was taken out of its former obscurity and given a case to itself. Miss Durham’s comparative collection of Balkan Peasant Jewellery was removed to its proper place in the Lower Gallery, where Mr. Bradford has been continuing his rearrangement of Personal Ornaments with a new case given to Trade Ornaments, especially those made in Europe for primitive peoples in imitation of native shells, beads, teeth &c., also those made in Cambay and elsewhere for similar trade. Such ornaments are important for the study of culture contact, and for the archaeology of the recent past. Between the Curator and the Technical Staff, cases were redecorated and rearranged for the Naga Head-Hunting Trophies, and for the classic series made by Professor Balfour for his Evolution of Decorative Art, illustrating such subjects as natural resemblances to human and animal form, sometimes artificially accentuated, natural forms suggesting decoration, skeuomorphs, alteration of designs by successive copying, &c. The clearing away of accretions and restoration to the original form was more than a work of pietas, as the exhibitions are still cogent and do not date.

The Regional Index now numbers about a quarter of a million cards, and the Subject Index on which we are now principally engaged, except for current accessions, has reached about 72,000 cards. Miss Blackwood is responsible for the arrangement, and this year has typed and distributed about 10,000 cards, apart from current accessions, and distributed about 4,000 which were typed by the Curator. The Curator also matched about 9,000 cards with coloured pictures of objects from Assam and Burma made by the late Mr. E.S. Thomas from the Hutton and Mills and other collections in the Museum, with cards already typed, putting on the correct references, so that the Regional Index now has a coloured picture card for nearly every object from Assam which arrived before 1936, and the Subject Index has a plain card. Mr. Gurden has continued cataloguing by regions and by subjects the negatives made since Mr. K.H.H. Walters became our photographer, and has reached the letter H in a subject and shelf index of the library, partly with a view to checking for missing books. This has to be a spare-time job, as he is fully occupied with such routine matters and wages,the general correspondence of the Museum, duplicating bibliographies and other material connected with teaching, and sending out the Museum’s publications for exchange or purchase. Miss Blackwood has sorted the photographic negatives made prior to the taking over by Mr. K.H.H. Walters and arranged them geographically in a special steel file for easy reference.

During the year Mr. K.H.H. Walters has photographed 90 specimens in the Museum and 164 illustrations from books, made 218 prints and 304 lantern-slides for lectures, publications, and screens, in addition to the development of many roll films for the Apulia Expedition, &c., and to mounting. He is constantly making improvements in his studio with considerable ingenuity and at small cost.

Among accessions, the most important has been the Parsons collection of locks and keys. This very valuable collection comprises more than a thousand locks and keys, chiefly European, but containing also examples from Japan, India, and North Africa, including some interesting keys of the Coptic period from Egypt. Miss Catherine E. Parsons, who is an historian, started her collection in 1895 with some keys from her old family home at Horseheath near Cambridge; the last entry in catalogue is dated 1948. She has made an exhaustive study of the subject, both from the available literature and from the examination of other collections, and has been able to assign the great majority of her specimens to their appropriate century, closer dating being for the most part impossible as the same types were in use over a long period. For England there is a range beginning with Romano-British and Saxon keys, through every century from the eleventh to the present time, illustrating the changes in pattern adapted to different kinds of lock. Especially noteworthy is a series of sixteenth-and early seventeenth -century keys, remarkable for their beautiful designs and excellent workmanship. Among the most interesting locks are two fine French alarum locks dating from the time of Louis XV1, an elaborately engraved seventeenth-century padlock with an inscription in German, and some complicated puzzle locks which greatly intrigued our Technical Staff. With the collection, Miss Blackwood brought back the donor’s MS. catalogue, notes, and sketch-books, invaluable for dating, since they include historic examples, the precise period of which is known. Miss Blackwood has made a typed copy of the catalogue, and Mr. Allen has treated many of the keys to remove corrosion, and to prevent it recurring. An exhibition of selected specimens, in chronological order, has been arranged in the Lower Gallery; the rest of the collection, which lack of space prevents us from exhibiting, will be kept, also in chronological order, in drawers underneath these cases, specially lined and fitted by Mr. Burden, and will be available to students by arrangement. It will be remembered that this subject was among the special interests of our Founder, whose book On the Development and Distribution of Primitive Locks and Keys was published in 1883. We are particularly grateful to Miss Parsons for her most generous gift, which so worthily carries on the tradition.

Another most generous and valuable gift was completed by Miss. E.M. Buxton, daughter of our late colleague Dr. L.H. Dudley Buxton. In addition to handing over her father’s library to the Museum, she suggested that we exchange duplicates with a bookseller for other books which would bear her father’s name. We were able to secure a complete and perfect series of the Sudan Notes and Records which Mr. Thronton had been building up over a series of years, and this important addition to our library will bear Dr. Buxton’s name.

The Wellcome Historical Medical Museum has had two further distributions, both of which Miss Blackwood attended. Thanks to the generosity of that Museum, we were able to fill many important gaps in our collections. Among notable specimens are a 'copper’ from the north-west coast of North America, a wooden hat from the Aleutian Islands, and a bone breast ornament from the Plains Indians. Miss Blackwood labelled and entered these collections, as well as the Parsons collection and other specimens, and Mr. Allen, under the supervision of Mr. Walters, cleaned and restored many of the specimens, as well as restoring a considerable number of very brittle baskets to their original flexibility. Mr. Allen shows great promise in experimental work on improved methods of restoration. Our present system of sending apprentices to school for a day a week has proved its worth over and over again.

A fourth outstanding gift came from Professor Evans-Pritchard. This is a necklace about 31 inches long, double, of blue-grey glass beads with six of brighter blue, from the Anuak of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. These beads are rare and valuable, and are said by the Anuak to have been brought from their ancestral home in the south-west. Some like them were found by the donor on the shore of Lake Victoria, and are now in the University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Cambridge. These necklaces are built up by ones and twos and are heirlooms. This one would be the bride-wealth for one wife. An account of these beads is published in the donor’s Political System of the Anuak,1940, p.55.

Other interesting objects from Africa are Miss Marion R.P. Irvine’s fine pots from Portuguese East Africa, Miss Lalage Bown’s stone implements from Togoland, Sir Harold MacMichael’s very curious pottery from the Kadaru Mountains in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, decorated in red and white geometrical designs and made of animal dung and water and coated with gum, and Mr. P.L. Shinnie’s type series of objects from Mr. A.J. Arkell’s Early Khartoum site.

Among American material should be mentioned Mrs. E. McDougall’s small collection of silk cocoons, undyed yarn and spindle with yarn from the Mazatec Indians in Mexico. This is, of course, a pendant to her large and valuable collection from Mexico and Guatemala, lately published by the Museum. Other American material includes Mr. Douglas Leechman’s type series from Middleport, Ontario, representing the Middle, or Transitional, stage of Neutral Iroquoian culture, Mr. A.B. Emdens’s Eskimo harpoon heads and bow from Davis Strait, Miss D. McTurk’s elaborate and brilliant Waiwai Indian chaplet of parrot and harpy eagle plumes from British Guiana, and Mr. J. Eric S. Thompson’s gaucho horse furniture, silver-mounted, from the Argentine.

Miss M. Eyre added more material collected in Burma at the time of its annexation, and some Afghan and other material, Surgeon-Captain J. Keir some charming Chinese silver jewellery with inlaid kingfisher feathers from Siufui in Szechuan where it is manufactured, Mrs. Dorothy Mackay a series from Chanhu-daro in India showing the ancient method of drilling cornelian beads, Miss L.J. and Mr. J.L. Mainprice Mishmi and Tibetan material, and Major P.D. Williams-Hunt a few well-documented objects from Malaya with the promise of more. The two iron pigeons and cockerel with silver overlay patterns brought last year by Mrs. Fitz-Adam Ormiston, and collected by herself in Darjiling, have been shown to Professor K. de B. Codrington, and he has identified them as modern work made in Damascus.

Among European material, a small collection representing Andalusian folk art was acquired from Mr. Julian Pitt-Rivers, great grandson of the Founder, a set of livery buttons from Mr. A. Malaher, and further Upper Palaeolithic material from sites in the Dordogne came from Mr. H.V. Noone.

The Rev. Canon E.A. Steer brought in a final instalment of the excellent Maori collection made by his great-uncle, Charles Smith, chiefly during the Maori War of 1860-9, and mainly acquired by the Museum in 1923, and Mr. H. Shortt, Curator of the Salisbury Museum, transferred to us an aboriginal Australian necklace of kangaroo teeth and three stone implements.

Among other activities, the Curator lectured once weekly in all three terms, on `The Origins of Civilization,’ and continued as Diploma Secretary for Anthropology and Interviewer of Research Students, and as Secretary to the Heads of Science Departments. The revision of A Hundred Years of Anthropology was completed, and it was brought up to date with the help of Professor Evans-Pritchard, who kindly lent the manuscript of one of his own forthcoming books, and of Miss Blackwood and Dr. J.S. Weiner, who both wrote chapters for the new part. Further sections of ivory, antler, and tusk were cut by Mr. J.R. Lomax of Bolton, and by the kindness of Professor W.E. Le Gros Clark, Mr. A.W. Dent is continuing the series of photomicrographs so beautifully made by Mr. W. Chesterman. The series has for some time been of use in the Museum for identifying the material of specimens, and the Curator is preparing it for publication as one of our Occasional Papers on Technology.

Miss Blackwood gave an `Ethnological Survey’ twice weekly in Michaelmas and Hilary Terms to students for the Diploma in Anthropology and to those taking Ethnology in the Preliminary Examination of the Honour School of Geography, as well as to some research students. In both of these terms she collaborated with Mr. Bradford weekly in sessions of practical work for Diploma students, and gave regular shorter sessions of practical work to students for the Preliminary Examination in Geography, as well as a considerable number of informal demonstrations to research workers and others when required. During Michaelmas Term she gave three lectures on `Arts and Industries of Colonial Africa’ to Colonial Serve Cadets, and in Trintiy Term lectured once weekly on ‘The Higher Civilization of Pre-Conquest America’. Her publications included ‘Some Arts and Industries of the Bosmun, Ramu River, New Guinea’ in Südseestudien, Gedenkschrift zur Erinnerung and Felix Speiser, published by the Museum für Völkerkunde, Basel, 1951, the editing of ‘Ritual and Secular Uses of Vibrating Membranes as Voice-Disguisers’, by the late Proferssor Henry Balfour, F.R.S., in J.R.A.I., vol. 78, 1948, published in 1951, an Obituary Notice of Miss W.S. Blackman in Nature, 27 January 1951, and a chapter on Americanist Studies in the Curator’s revision of A Hundred Years of Anthropology. She also took on a large part of the editorial work of our Occasional Papers on Technology, no.4. Other activities included serving on the Council of the Folk-Lore Society, the Executive Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and the British Ethnography Committee. She has attended preliminary meetings of the Organizing Committee for the XXXth Congress of Americanists to be held in Cambridge in August 1952, and represented the Pitt Rivers Museum on the Council for British Archaeology and the Royal Anthropological Institute on the Council for the Promotion of Field Studies. She acted as Moderator for the Preliminary Examination in Geography and examined for the degree of B.Sc. in Oxford, and for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the University of Cambridge.

Mr. Bradford lectured once weekly in all three terms, on ‘Nomad Empires of Asia’ in Michaelmas Term. on `City, Village, and Field in Eastern Asia’ in Hilary Term, and in Trinity Term gave two lectures each on `The Arts of Primitive Peoples, an Introduction’, and on `Trade Goods and Trade Ornaments: an Historical Summary with Special Reference to Africa’. He gave practical classes in all three terms, and taught drawing to the students. He also gave tutorials to 31 pupils for the Preliminary Examination in Geography in Michaelmas and Hilary Terms, and acted as Moderator for the Preliminary in Trinity Term, in succession to Miss Blackwood who served in Hilary Term. Other lectures given were ‘The Apennines in Pre-history’ at the Institute of Archaeology, University of London, ‘Fieldwork and Excavation in Apulia’ at the Ashmolean Museum, and an account of recent work in Apulia by his Expedition to the University Anthropological Society. Apart from the article on ‘Art Treasures in the Pitt Rivers Museum’ sent to the Illustrated London News, his publications included ‘Buried Italian Landscapes’. in The Times for 28 August 1950, and ‘Trade Ornaments and Goods: Their Archaeology and Ethnology’, in Man, 1951, no. 183. Work is progressing on ‘The Apulia Reconnaissance. 1949-50’, to be published as a Research Report of the Society of Antiquaries, and on the editing of Discovery from the Air, by the late Major Allen.

Sir Francis Knowles has unfortunately been ill for a considerable part of this year, so that students have been deprived of his unique teaching. We miss his company and the work that adds so much to the value of our Stone Age Collections. Mr. G.E.S. Turner has continued to aid us with the exact documentation of American Indian material, and has supplied us with slides from his own negatives taken in Barra, South Uist, Harris, and Lewis.

Under supervision of Mr. H.F. Walters, the whole of the Technical Staff have been engaged throughout the year in going through all the collections to guard them against moth, woodworm, and all the pests that attack most of the objects used by human beings. Gradually they are making and putting metal holders and labels on all cabinet drawers containing specimens other than those shown above or adjacent, and this, together with the stage now reached by the catalogue, allows us to give more time to research, and requires less time in exploration, though there are still a few things in our very large collections which I should have difficulty in finding, since there is no place in our arrangement by subjects where they should obviously be.

There have been changes in the Staff since the last Report was written. Mr. W.C. Brice has now arrived in Oxford, though he does not officially take up his duties until 1 October. Mr. F.C. Whiting’s wife died of a painful illness last June. Her loss undermined his will to live, and he did not choose long to survive her. After his death, we were fortunate in being able to secure the services of Mr. F.J. Nipress, father of the Head Porter of the University Museum, as an Attendant. He keeps the Museum well polished, while Mrs. Thorrington makes the Library shine. We also took the opportunity to add a new Apprentice Technician to the Staff. Mr. R.W. Burden was highly recommended by Mr. E.T. Leeds, sometime Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, and has lived up to the recommendation.

10,486 people have visited the Museum, including about 600 school children in parties, over and above the many visits by Research Students who come with a specific purpose, and usually require some help from one or other of our staff.


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