Annual Report of the Committee for the Pitt Rivers Museum 1982-83

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. Once again, and for the third successive year, the main topic for discussion was the new museum building on the 60, Banbury Road site and problems connected with it. The Committee recorded its pleasure at the conferment of a knighthood on Mr. David Piper.

Museum Matters
It was reported last year that the University had decided to install an air-conditioning system in the ”modules” of the new museum building, to enable the building to be brought into use. Mr. Gary Thomson, Scientific Adviser to the National Gallery, kindly acted as consultant, and in the light of his advice plans prepared in the Surveyor’s Office were put into effect. In June of the year under review the installation was switched on. By the end of the year (31st July) the period of running-in, adjustment and evaluation was still too short for its efficacy to be fully judged, but it seemed to be working satisfactorily.

In June serious defects were noticed in the roof of the new building, the flat-roofed parts and the gutters of which had been covered with felt. Temporary measures were promised before winter set in, to be followed by long-term repairs.

Near the end of 1982 Council agreed that the museum might raise funds for the opening of the new museum with exhibitions of pre-agricultural archaeology and of musical instruments, of the highest standard and using audio-visual and other modern techniques, and also for the endowment of a post for an Assistant Curator in Ethnomusicology, to care for the musical instrument collections and to provide services and activities in this field for scholars, schools and the public.

In view of the expansion in the museum’s activities it was decided that the time was ripe for the formations of Friends of the Pitt Rivers Museum. A Development Sub-committee, the membership of which was the Vice-chairman, Professor Kirkwood, Sir David Piper, the Curator, Miss Cousins (Administrator) and Dr. La Rue, was set up. The Sub-committee, which has been concerned mainly with preparations for the establishment of the Friends, fund-raising and publicity, met twice during the year.

In connection with the U.G.C. Visitation in 1983 a draft paper was prepared for inclusion in the submission on behalf of museums and libraries, and the Curator was invited to make a short verbal statement mainly concerning conservation problems and the state of the collections.

The museum was pleased to welcome the Museum Ethnographers’ Group for its Annual General Meeting, for which a programme of lectures and demonstrations on the museum’s collections and activities was arranged. In connection with the meeting of ICOM (International Council of Museums) in London a conference of CIMCIM (International Committee of ICOM for Musical Instrument Curators) was organized in Oxford by Dr La Rue because of their interest in the museum’s musical collections. Two experimental projects to involve children in musical activities based on the collections were organized, with the Reading Museum children’s club and Cowley St. John school; both were successful and provided valuable experience for future activities.

Friendly contacts were established with the local press and local and national radio and television, among the results of which was a series of twelve short programmes on the museum on Radio Oxford.

Dr. A.J. Colson (University Lecturer in Ethnology) resigned with effect from 31st December 1982. In the context of this resignation and of economy measures required by the University the Committee agreed that a new M.St. Course in Ethnology and Prehistory, to replace the existing Diploma in Ethnology, be proposed to the Anthropology and Geography Faculty Board. This represented a change of emphasis long desired within the Department, where it had been felt that there was scope and demand for a course exploring the common ground between the two subjects. It was also agreed, with the concurrence of all the curatorial staff in post, that teaching should be included in the duties of curatorial staff. This would in fact only give formal basis to the existing situation. The Committee recommended to the Faculty Board accordingly.

With the aid of a Minor Works grant a room in the old building was converted to an air-conditioned store for archive photographs and a small work-room for visiting scholars. The contents of the room (mainly lamps and lighting devices) were moved to an adjacent loft, the roof of which had recently been insulated, and stored on racking erected for the purpose. The roof of the office and workshop wing was re-slated, and repairs were carried out to the main roof of the museum. The ground floor of the Balfour Library was redecorated and some carpet laid.

Planning for the archaeology and musical instrument exhibitions in the new building continued. Some equipment and furniture were obtained for the display workshop there, and some fittings were made for the archaeology cases. A display stand covering the appeal and plans for the new museum was prepared for use in the old museum, and leaflets were designed and produced. In the museum the new textile exhibition, which occupies most of the north side of the court, was completed, and after experimentation to reduce the light level to acceptable readings new interior lighting was installed for it. The partition at the north door was removed to make possible better display of the recently-restored Norfolk horse-hair loom, and as part of the same project the small exhibition “Andean Village Technology” was transferred to the lower gallery. Exhibitions of fighting bracelets and wrist-knives and of boomerangs were added to the Arms and Armour exhibition in the upper gallery. A wall-case display of musical instruments was re-arranged, the case painted, and interior lighting installed.

In the Conservation department a major limiting factor was the absence on maternity leave, from November 1982, of Mrs Speake, the part-time assistant. Though Mrs. Speake does not hold an established post her help is vital, both at the bench and as “stand-in” for Miss Walker, the conservation technician, whose responsibilities often take her to the several buildings occupied by the museum and sometimes away from it altogether. For this reason it was not possible to make full use of help offered by members of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies, whose assistance is however once again gratefully acknowledged. This illustrates the fact, often not appreciated, that if staffing falls below a certain minimum level it can become impossible to accept potentially valuable help. Apart from ad hoc and emergency conservation tasks, the main conservation work of the year was cleaning and treating textiles needed for the new display. In connection with this, and with the help of Ms Williamson (who is in charge of records), a major re-organization of the reserve textile store was undertaken. This is located in the conservation laboratory and in addition to her other duties the conservation technician is in charge of it. Some boxes which it had not been possible to unpack since the enforced evacuation of 18, Parks Road in 1973 were opened and the contents incorporated in the storage system, and two new storage units were brought into use. The items were sorted, listed and relocated by tribal and geographical categories. As a result the strengths and weaknesses of the collection have become more apparent, and it is now much more accessible for research and teaching.

With the reluctant consent of the Committee, four specimens which had deteriorated beyond redemption were destroyed.

In addition to her work on the server textile collection, Ms Williamson was able to keep accessioning of current acquisitions nearly up to date and has made further progress with the retrospective numbering of older specimens which were not numbered (though they were entered) on a acquisition. About forty substantial written enquiries about the collections and about twenty visitors doing extensive research were dealt with during the year.

A very large collection of amulets was received on loan from the Wellcome Trustees with the intention that when certain legal problems had been resolved it should become a gift to the University.

The attendance figure for the year was nearly 38,000, the highest figure yet recorded, despite the fact that the University Museum was closed until October and visitors therefore had to use a temporary entrance from the Science Area, on the north side of the building.

 The photographer was kept busy throughout the year. In addition to work for museum records and teaching, 63 outside orders were received. In all 789 transparencies and 2,889 prints were made.

The Balfour Library
The reclassification of the book stock continues to be delayed by the late publication of Bliss Bibliographic Classification, Class K (Society). However good progress has been made. Amendments to existing schedules have enable work on Material Culture and Technology to begin, and this is now well in hand; and as a result of experiments in the classification of ethnographies of specific groups a satisfactory method has been decided upon.

The Library gratefully acknowledges a grant of £158 from the Inter-Faculty Committee for Latin american Studies for the purchase of books in that field, and gifts from the following: Ashmolean Museum, Dr. A. Barnard, Mrs. U.G. Betts, the late Dr. S. Cole, Mr. J.D.H. Collinson, Dr. A.J. Colson, Mr. A. Digby, Mrs. E. Ettlinger, Mr. J.P.H. Hutton, Professor N. Blurton Jones, Dr. J. Desby, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Dr. C.W. Newbury, Mr. A.T. Porter, Mr. D.R. Simmons, the Wellcome Foundation.

Despite a slight drop in the number of new undergraduate readers, loans have continued at the same level. There has been a growth in post-graduate use and a marked increase in the number of specialist enquiries from both inside and outside the University.

During the year 332 books, 456 pamphlets and sheets and 350 periodical parts were accessioned. A Further five periodical titles are being received by subscription, two subscriptions were cancelled and one title ceased publication. The total of new readers registered was 135, and 1,960 loans were recorded.

There was greatly increased demand on both the manuscript and the photographic archive collections during the year. Work on the archives took a considerable proportion of the Librarian’s time, and cataloguing of them progresses steadily though it will be some years before it can be completed. The creation of an air-conditioned archive store (mentioned above) provided satisfactory environmental conditions for the first time, and a grant was received from the Area Museum Service towards the cost of suitable storage materials for the photographic collections.

The Archives have received some notable accessions. St. Antony’s college presented two important collections: about 1,200 photographic plates of Tibet by Sir Charles Bell and about 1,500 plates and film negatives of the Hindu Kush and central Asia by Col. R.C.F. Schomberg. Mr. J.P.H. Hutton gave the Naga Hill tour diaries and correspondence of J.H. Hutton, to be added to his collections already held by the Museum, and Mr. P. Newton presented a collection of slides of fire-making techniques from India. Finally we are most grateful to the Hulme Surplus Fund, Brasenose College, for a grant to allow Mrs.G. Betts to catalogue and document her collection of about 3,000 photographs from the south-western Naga tribes and the Apa Tani of Assam before depositing them in the Library.

Our thanks are again due to Mr. S. Bach, who continued his valuable voluntary work cataloguing Miss B. Blackwood’s papers.

Sales and exchanges of Occasional Papers and Monographs amounted to 463; of other publications to 284; and of postcards to 9,294. Yena: Art and Ceremony in a Sepik Society, by Ross Bowden, was published as Monograph 3.

Dr. A.J. Colson (University Lecturer in Ethnology) resigned at the end of 1982. The lecture course in Social Ecology which she gave was taken over by Dr. D.B. Tayler (Assistant Curator).

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

Dr. S. Jones (University Lecturer in Ethnology and Assistant Curator) received an S.S.R.C. Grant to study Nuristani collections in the Museum für Völkerkinde in West Berlin and to pay a working visit to the Südasia-Institut in Heidelberg.

Dr. H.T.A.M. La Rue was employed part-time as Assistant Curator for Ethnomusicology. Apart from curatorial duties she was engaged in public relations and school activities. She was appointed Editor of the CIMCIM Newsletter.

Dr. D.A. Roe (University Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology) extended his lecturing to include a special course in Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Archaeology for undergraduates taking the recently-introduced Quaternary option in the Geography Honours School. He made two visits to Kenya and Tanzania, and took part (as did several of the Department’s research students) in the Fourth International Flint Symposium. His membership of the Editorial Boards of World Archaeology and Quarterly Review of Archaeology, the Advisory Editoral Board of L’Anthropologie, and the Archaeology and Numismatiacs Advisory Committee of the National Museum of Wales all continued.

Ms. L.B. Williamson (Museum Assistant, documentation) was elected to the Committee of the Museum Ethnographers’ Group.

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

Cranstone, B.A.L. 1983. “Catching jungle fowl on Vatulele Island, Fiji”. Domodomo:Fiji Museum Quarterly, 1.
Edwards, E.J.M. 1982. “Some problems with photographic archives: the case of C.W. Dammann”, J.A.S.O., XIII, no. 3.
---- 1983. “Pitt Rivers Museum photographic archives”, I.C.M.E. Newsletter, July.
Jones, S. 1983. “In search of the horned head-dress”, in Ethnologie und Geschichte     Festschrift Für Karl Jettmar, ed. Peter Snow. Beiträge Für Südasienforschung, Südasien-Institut, Universität Heidelberg, Bd. 86.
Roe, D.A. 1982. “The transition from Lower to Middle Palaeolithic, with particular reference to     Britain”, in The Transition from Lower to Middle Palaeolithic and the Origin of Modern Man, ed. A.V. Ronen. B.A.R. International Series, 151.
---- 1982. “Writing up the Old Stone Age’, Quarterly Review of Archaeology, 3,3.
---- 1982. Introduction to Studia Prehistorica Belgica, 2.
----     (ed) 1983. Adlun in the Stone Age: the Excavations of D.A.E. Garrod in the Lebanon, 1958-63. 2 vols. B.A.R. International series, 159 (with Editor’s postscript).
Williamson, L.B 1983. “Ethnological specimens in the Pitt Rivers Museum attributed to the Tradescant Collection”, in Tradescant’s Rarities: Essays on the Foundation of the Ashmolean Museum, 1683, ed. A.G. MacGregor.

Student Numbers                        
Total                        9         14

Three Diploma candidates were successful; one withdrew for personal reasons. Two D.Phil. and one M.Phil. candidates were awarded degrees.

The Donald Beden-Powell Quaternery Research Centre
The Centre (at 60, Banbury Road) once again had a busy year. The former staff flat was brought into use to provide additional working and storage space, but the conversion of its kitchen as a photographic dark-room, which had been agreed within the Department, could not be put into effect owing to lack of funds. Some valuable new equipment was obtained. The number of academic visitors, 136, again showed an increase over the previous year. The Centre has no clerical staff, and depends on the willing cooperation of its students for such needs as answering telephones and taking messages.

Abingdon Museum (transfer): a bronze-bladed knife from Zaire and an Indian dagger with loop handle and iron claws with finger rings. Mrs. U.G. Betts: twenty-five items from the Nagas of Manipur and North Cachar and the Apa Tani, Dafla and Miri of the Subansiri district, Assam. Mr. A.S. Brown: three currency notes issued by the British Military Authority in the Mediterranean area during World War 2. Mrs. Z.M. Bunker: two small heads, one of stone and one of terracotta, from Central America     (probably Mexico). Mr. R.V. Carter: four small coconut bowls from the Solomon Islands and an ornament of shell, vegetable fibre and cloth from New Britain. Mrs. E.M. Chilver: a pottery jar from the Bunyoro of Uganda, perhaps showing European influence. Community of the Epiphany, Truro: a Chinese pillow of lacquered basketry. Mr. B.A.L. Cranstone: seven items of paper currency from the Mediterranean theatre and Austria, collected 1943-5. Miss W.M. Duyvesteyn: an indigo-dyed cloth with sewn-resist clump-tied pattern from Nigeria. Miss S. Ellis: a dance costume, comprising six items, from Manipur, India. Mrs. M. Fletcher: a painted pottery water vessel, filled through the base probably from North Africa. Dr. E.J. Herrin: a pair of babies' urine tubes (male and female to prevent the wetting of swaddling clothes, from Istanbul, Turkey. Mr. J.P.H. Hutton: a "scare-devil" from the Nicobar Islands, a figure of an Andamanese woman carved by a Burmese convict, and a chief’s stool and a metal arm-ring from the Nagas of Assam; all formerly the property of the late Professor J.H. Hutton. Mrs. R. Kirby: two dolls, male and female, made from Chinese cash with wood heads, hands and feet, from Java. Mr. Seiji Minamida: a small model bull bearing two chests (a good luck charm) from the Aizu district of northern Japan. Mrs. M. Munns: a knife and sheath of Somali type. Mr. P. Newton: a fire saw from the Baiga of the Mandla district, Madhya Pradesh, India. The late Dr. K.P. Oakley (bequest): a number of fossils and other items regarded as charms; an ivory netsuke; and some ethnographical items from Australia, Sumatra and elsewhere. Rev. A.G. and Mrs. Parrish: five items of beadwork from the Transei South Africa. Mr. H.S. Staff: a two-handled scythe, obtained locally but of Scottish type. Mrs. P. Ticehurst: three textiles, two incorporating raffia fibres, from Central Nigeria.

Arts Council: a terracotta figure of a mounted deity, made by Gulab Chand, from Uttar Pradesh, during the exhibition "The Living Arts of India", with clay brought from India. Mr. S. Carter: five items of textile clothing from the Antigua district of Guatemala. Christie, Manson & Woods: four ethnographical items from the Papuan Gulf region of Papua New Guinea (ex Pitt Rivers Museum, Farnham); three Eskimo pieces; and a model canoe from Niue, Western Polynesia. Mr. D.A. Hilborne: a head of resin-clay composition, painted and mounted on a stick, from Vanuatu. Miss Mary Marlow: thirty-seven ethnographical items collected by the Oxford University Expedition to Nepal.

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