Annual Report for the year 1979-80

The Committee having received the following Report from the Curator presents it as its Report to Congregation. The Committee met three times during the year, once in each term. The principal topics for discussion were problems connected with the state and preservation of the collections, economies, and the new museum.

Mrs. E.M. Chilver relinquished the Vice-chairmanship and was succeeded by Professor G.A. Harrison. The Committee records its appreciation of Mrs. Chilver’s service.

Museum Matters
Following the installation of heating in the ground floor of the storage area at the Old Power House, as reported last year, racking has been erected (with the aid of a grant from the Area Museum Service for South Eastern England) and progress has been made with the transfer onto it of material hitherto unsatisfactorily stored elsewhere. Initially much of the new racking has had to be used for the sorting and checking of specimens transferred from the Examination Schools basement.

In the old Pitt Rivers Museum building the roof of the Balfour Library wing was re-slated, the staircase was enclosed and made fire-resistant, and other internal work in connection with fire precautions was carried out. Planning consultations about fire-escapes from the museum galleries and the Balfour Library continued but at the end of the year work had not yet begun. Improvements required to bring the workshop up to the standards laid down in the Health and Safety at Work Acts were completed. Direct daylight (and therefore natural ultra-violet) was finally excluded from the museum by the installation of venetian blinds over the windows.

On the new museum site at 60 Banbury Road, the landscaping of the front was carried out by contractors, and the Parks Department assumed responsibility for maintenance.

Certain defects in the exhibition cases were rectified. A fault in the heating system which had caused it continually to shut off during two winters was finally located and rectified near the end of the heating season. The heating fault had made it impossible to keep significant records of humidity and temperature, though thermohydrograph readings were taken regularly throughout the year; but past experience suggested that further problems with humidity levels could be anticipated. Specimens cannot be moved into the building until these problems are resolved. In addition the threat of a need for drastic economies, which would have to be met mainly from the funds allotted for the new museum, made progress towards opening impossible except at planning. The Committee is deeply concerned by the continuing delay.

Work on sorting the reserve collections at the Old Power House and in the museum and on re-arranging exhibitions has continued, and slow but steady progress has been made by Mr. Inskeep, with the part-time voluntary help of Mr. Stephen Bach and Mr. R. J. MacRae (to both of whom we are very grateful), on the reserve archaeological collections at 60 Banbury Road.

The conservation section, which still consists of one qualified technician and one unqualified part-time assistant, had a frustrating year. Much time was spent on trying to save damaged specimens removed from storage in the Examination Schools (as reported last year). The technician spent more time than would normally be required on recording atmospheric conditions, especially in the new museum building, and servicing humidifying equipment. The fumigation chamber was still not in commission by the end of the year, though some progress had been made. Volunteers from the National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies (whose help is again gratefully acknowledged) spent part of their time cleaning and tidying exhibited material in the museum, in the course of which specimens showing serious deterioration were removed for conservation. In consequence of these necessary activities it proved impossible to adhere to a long-term conservation programme. The technician spent two weeks on attachment to the Conservation Department of the British Museum which were most valuable to her.

Visitors to the public exhibition totalled 31,643, including 5,951 who came in organized parties from schools and other institutions admitted by appointment during the mornings. Staff restrictions still make public admission possible only from 2 to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

The Museum was glad to be visited by students taking a Curatorial course for the Diploma of the Museum Association which was arranged in Oxford.

Items from the collections were lent to the Ipswich Museum, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, the Institute of Archaeology (London), and the Commonwealth Institute. Items lent to the National Gallery of Art in Washington were escorted on the return journey by Dr. Schuyler Jones.

The Balfour Library
The reclassification of the Library’s collections on to Bliss Bibliographic Classifications, 2nd ed., has continued. Work on the Art, Music, and Textiles sections was completed in the course of the year. Progress was not as rapid as had been hoped owing to the delayed publication of the main anthropology class.

Increasing demands have been made on the Photographic and Archive collections, continuing the trend of recent years. In response to this, library staff have been much concerned with checking and cataloguing the Photographic collection in the last year. As work progresses, the value and interest of the collection becomes increasingly apparent. With the aid of a grant from the Area Museum Service, Mr. T.J. Collings visited the Museum to inspect the holdings of photographic prints, film, and drawings and water-colours, and to make recommendations. As a result of this and of the increase in interest, a programme of inspection, copying, and improvement of storage conditions has been initiated. Some 20 items have been added to the collection, notably gifts from Mrs. E.M. Chilver, Mr. P.J.H. Hutton, and Mrs. E. Peetz, for which the Library is most grateful. The Library was very pleased to receive the papers and pamphlets on string figures belonging to the late Dr. R. H. Compton.

The Library gratefully acknowledges a bequest of £67.80 from Miss B.W. Palmer of Gloucester, Massachusetts, which was used for the purchase of books on the anthropology of North America. The Library was also grateful to receive a grant of £125 from the Inter-Faculty Committee for Latin American Studies for the purchase of books in that field.

Gifts to the Library from the following are gratefully acknowledged: Ashmolean Museum, Dr. A. Barnard, the late Miss B.M. Blackwood, Dr. J.R. Clammer, Mr. R. Colson, Mr. B.A.L. Cranstone, Mrs. E. Ettlinger, Mrs. Hedges, Mrs. P. Hiscock, Mr. K. Huffman, Indian Institute Library, Mr. R.R. Inskeep, Dr. W. James, Dr. S. Jones, Mrs. M. Lester, Dr. K.P. Oakley, Dr. D.A. Roe, Dr. A. Sherratt, Dr. G.W. Stocking, and Mr. G. Turner.
During the year 238 books, 81 pamphlets and sheets, and 379 periodical parts were accessioned. The Library is receiving four additional periodical titles by subscription and one by exchange. Subscriptions to four titles have been cancelled and one exchange title has ceased publication. A total of 1,799 issues was recorded. The total of new readers was 147, the readership being about 300.        

Sales and exchanges of Occasional Papers and Monographs amounted to 616; of other publications to 440; and of postcards to 5,260.

Dr. A.J. Colson (University Lecturer in Ethnology) was on sabbatical leave during Hilary term. She served on the Anniversary Committee of the Royal Geographical Society and as a consultant to the World Bank.

Mr. B.A.L. Cranstone (Curator) was elected a Vice-President of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Mr. R.R. Inskeep (Assistant Curator) continued to serve on the Executive Committee of the Society of Antiquaries and on the Editorial Board of World Archaeology.

Dr. R.A. Roe (University Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology) lectured in Cambridge during the illness of Professor C.B.M. McBurney, gave public lectures in Oxford and Leicester, and edited a special number of World Archaeology.

Mr. H.P.G. Unsworth retired as Administrator in April, after more than eighteen years in the Department, most of them as Librarian as well, having stayed beyond his planned retirement date on account of uncertainties about the filling of the post. The Committee, the Curator, and the staff of all grades will miss his reassuring and kindly presence. We welcome his successor, Miss F.J. Cousins. Miss M. Cobbold began work as Library and Clerical Assistant and Mr. I. Morris as a Display Technician. We deeply regret to record the death of Mr. A.J Boscott. Mr. T.J. Molan began service as attendant/cleaner.

The following publications by members of the academic staff appeared during the year:

Colson, A.J. 1980 (with G. Bennett and S. Wavell) Los Condenados: la situcación angustiosa de los indios Akawaio de Guyana, Survival International Document VI.    
Inskeep, R.R. 1980 ‘The Final Stages of Hunting and Gathering in Africa’ in The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Archaeology, ed. A. Sherratt (C.U.P)
Roe, D.A. 1979 (with E.W. Holden) ‘Flint artefacts from Seaford’, Sussex Archaeological Collections 117.
--- 1979 ‘Great Britain: Caddington’. Early Man New 3-4.
--- 1980 ‘The Handaxe Makers’, in The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Archaeology ed. A. Sherratt (C.U.P).

Student numbers


    One candidate for the Diploma in Ethnology withdrew. One M.Litt. In Prehistoric Archaeology and two D.Phil.s in Ethnology were awarded. All diploma candidates were successful.

Swan Fund
Demands on the Fund continue to make full funding of projects impossible, but supplementary grants have materially aided a number of valuable research undertakings.

The Donald Baden-Powell Quaternary Research Centre
The Centre, under the direction of Dr. D.A. Roe, again had a busy year, with over a hundred visitors. Seven research students have made intensive use of the Centre’s research facilities, and others from time to time. Some much-needed equipment was obtained, thanks to a General Board grant (the Centre has no equipment grant).

Dr. Roe participated in the arrangements made by the Department for External Studies for the Smithsonian Associates, some of whose sessions took place in the Centre.

Mr. A.E. Gunther has presented, through the National Art Collections Fund, The Herman Gunther Collection of Netsuke, a very large and important collection which had been on loan to the Museum since 1944. Mrs. G. Bowles: a large decorated gourd from the Kipsigis of Kenya. Mrs. E.M. Chilver: two pottery tobacco-pipe bowles from Babungo, Cameroun. Mr. P.J.H. Hutton: a number of items from the estate of the late Professor J.H. Hutton, comprising ethnographical specimens from the Nagas of Assam and from India, medals, photographs, slides, books, and paintings. Mr. R.R. Inskeep: three dried caterpillars (‘mopani worms’), used as food in Botswana. Mr. P. Jarrett: a pair of shorts made of bark-cloth, purchased near Kampala, Uganda. Miss H. La Rue: a whistling sweet (fipple-flute type). Mrs. J. Lawrence: a stone tobacco-pipe bowl with support in the form of a buffalo, from the Gwembe of Zambia. Sister Filumena Light: a wig, two plaited armbands, and a necklace of pigs’ tusks from the Huli, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Dr. K.P. Oakley: a carved bone arrowhead from Aoba, New Hebrides, and a cast of Professor Dart’s ‘portrait of an Australopithecine’ from Makapansgat. Mr. J.M. Popkin: a sword from the Kikuyu of Kenya. Mr. A.T. Porter: a necklace of seeds of the Kawau tree, now rare; a replica of a unique specimen in the Auckland Museum.  The Royal Society: a bronze copy of a hand-club from New Zealand, bearing the arms of Sir Joseph Banks; deposited on loan in 1932. Miss A.C. Western: a bullroarer, a beadwork apron, and a penis sheath from south-east Africa, and a fire-making stick from Guyana.

From Messrs. Christie, Manson, and Woods: a tattooing implement from Somoa. From Mr. G.C. Elworthy: five examples of decorated pottery from various localities in northern Papua New Guinea, comprising two bowls, a mask, a human figure, and an animal figure. From Mr. G. Hodges (with a grant from the Victoria and Albert Museum): a silver wine cup, a carved wood and wrought-iron tripod table, and a carved wood measure for clarified butter, from the Klaigal Valley, Nuristan, Afghanistan.

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