The Pitt Rivers Museum Annual Report 1991-92

The Committee met three times during the year and, having received this annual report from the Director, presented it as their report to Congregation.

This reporting period saw an important development in the history of anthropology and archaeology at Oxford: the establishment of a new B.A. Hons. degree in Archaeology & Anthropology. The suggestion that undergraduates might be allowed to read anthropology at Oxford was first proposed more than a hundred years ago by Sir Edward Burnett Tylor. It is satisfying to report that the first students will finally arrive in Michaelmas 1992.

On June 23rd, 1992 the museum received a visit from Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who was in Oxford to receive by Diploma the degree of Doctor of Civil Law. Her Majesty spent altogether two hours in the museum, divided between the main museum and the galleries at 60 Banbury Road. She viewed the exhibits, and had afternoon tea with staff and invited guests in the Balfour Building. Her Majesty was accompanied by Her Lord Chamberlain, Major-General Haslund-Christensen, who is the son of Denmark's foremost explorer of Central Asia.

The Main Museum: During this reporting period the time and energies of our hard-pressed technical staff have been mainly devoted to work in the top gallery where new permanent displays are being planned, designed, and set up along both sides of the gallery on the south side - a distance of some 25 metres, which means that 50 linear metres of exhibition space have to be created. For a technical staff as small as ours this is a major undertaking, particularly when it is realized that some or all our technicians are interrupted almost daily to attend to other urgent matters. The work which we are trying to carry out continues to underscore our need for additional technical staff in the workshop, the Conservation Laboratory, and the Photographic Studio.

Grants Received: The following grants are gratefully acknowledged: The Radcliffe Trust: £25,000 towards continuing Dr. La Rue's employment; OAL/Wolfson Fund: £35,000 towards the cost of the upper gallery project; Rhodes Trust: £20,000 towards the cost of the upper gallery project; The Hulme Fund: £10,000 towards the cost of the upper gallery project; Oxfordshire County Council, Department of Leisure & Arts: £1,500 towards the cost of the education service; and the Area Museums Service for South-East England: £600 towards the cost of publishing the Basketmakers catalogue.

Temporary Exhibitions: The exhibition Wamo: Photographs by Diamond Jenness, D'Entrecasteaux Islands, New Guinea, 1911-1912 which ran from June 1991 to May, 1992 was very well received, being described by one specialist reviewer as a 'model exhibition'. This is the first Pitt Rivers exhibition to be shown at the Metropolitan Museum in New York where it opened in November 1992.
Basketmakers - Meaning and Form in Native American Baskets opened on June 16th, 1992 and will run until May 1993. The exhibition shows 273 baskets from the Museum's own collections, ranging in their provenance from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.
"Snares of Privacy and Fiction" was an exhibition for Artweek in which poets, writers, musicians and visual artists contributed a thought-provoking accompaniment to being in “this extraordinary museum”. Its aim was to animate the full experience of museum-going and, with its accompanying education programme, was supported by Southern Arts, Oxfordshire County Council and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art.
In the Balfour Building The Four Seasons celebrated the musical instruments used in festivities throughout the year in four continents.

Education Service (Dr. H. La Rue): The National Curriculum continues to affect the service that our Education Service provides to schools. In particular the typological arrangement of the Museum can easily be related to topics such as “Water Transport”, “Textiles”, “Toys”, etc. The two most frequently used Trails were those of “Egypt” and “Aztecs”.

Once again, it is a pleasure to record the very valuable assistance provided throughout the year by Mrs. Jean Flemming, Mrs. Frances Martyn, Mrs. Sally Owen, and Mrs. Joan Shaw. Without their generous and consistent voluntary contributions of time and effort our Schools Education Programme would have come to a halt.

Museum Visitors And Enquiries: Once again the number of visitors to the museum (including the Balfour Building) during the year increased substantially, rising to 90,084. The highest monthly figures were for July, with a total of 11,125 visitors, or nearly 500 for each day the museum was open. The number of school children and teachers visiting the museum in organized groups was 8,533 during the year. Various members of staff dealt with over 600 postal enquiries relating to the collections, in addition to countless telephone and personal enquiries. More than 260 research visitors and visiting scholars were received by various staff members during the year. This sustained pressure on our resources served once again to highlight the unsatisfactory conditions and facilities for both staff and visitors in terms of working space, separation from reserve collections, and security/supervision.
Museum Documentation and Records (Linda Mowat): Computerization of the manual card index was completed for the following areas during this reporting period: Benin (Nigeria); Easter Island; and the Cook Islands. Publication of the computer catalogue of North American collections was held up by the pressure of work created by the Basketmakers exhibition and book.

Archives (Elizabeth Edwards): There is a marked increase in the number of scholars interested in conceptual approaches to photography which reflects not only a greater awareness of the value of this method, but also the specific rôle this museum has played in the development of this approach. We were very grateful to receive numerous donations to the archives, including the first part of Mr. Wilfred Thesiger's photographic collection, the donation of which was reported last year. As the research and teaching demands on the archives increase it grows more difficult to maintain the basic curatorial functions such as cataloguing and storage. Assistance is desperately needed in this field.

Balfour Library (Richard Hanson): This has been a year in which a number of positive changes have taken place. The establishment of the first CLIP (Committee for Library and Information Provision in Archaeology and Anthropology) should ensure coherent planning for the future of both the Tylor and Balfour Libraries. The highlight of the year came in the form of a bequest of books from Mrs. June Bedford. Mrs. Bedford has been a Friend of the Pitt Rivers Museum for many years and has collected a fine library of almost one thousand books - all of which will integrate perfectly with the existing collection.

Publications Department (Julia Cousins, Kathryn White): Basketmakers - Meaning and Form in Native American Baskets was the major publication of the year. It was designed and typeset in house by Linda Mowat using the Museum’s desk top publishing system. The focus of our activities has been on the development of the new shop in the main museum as an attractive and distinctive adjunct to a museum visit. Kathryn White has now developed an imaginative range of goods and the shop also sells a selection of books for all ages on Archaeology and Anthropology. The profits have not only paid for the shops' staffing and other costs, but also financed advertising and promotional activities and supported the publications programme. The turnover for the year was more than double any previous total.

Cultural Anthropology: Dr. Donald Tayler, Dr. Howard Morphy, and Dr. Schuyler Jones continued to offer lectures in the People, Environment, and Culture series for first year undergraduates reading for Geography and the Human Sciences degrees and for M.St./M.Phil. graduate students reading for qualifications in Ethnology and Museum Ethnography.

Prehistoric Archaeology:    Dr. Derek Roe gave his usual courses of teaching for the M.St. and M.Phil. degrees in Prehistoric Archaeology, and for undergraduate geographers with an interest in Quaternary Environments and the Palaeolithic period. Mr. Ray Inskeep gave two courses of lectures for Human Sciences undergraduates and for M.St. and M.Phil. students, provided supervision for two research students and three others on postgraduate taught courses.

Donald Baden-Powell Quaternary Research Centre: The retirement of Mr. Dennis Britton in September 1992 marks the end of 30 years of his service to archaeology at Oxford and, in particular, to the teaching of the subject, as his students over the years have grateful cause to remember.

The James A. Swan Fund: In 1991-92 some fifteen applications were received for funds. The total assets of the fund on 31 July, 1992 were £36,812. During the reporting period nine grants, totalling £11,200 were awarded. The standard of applications was high; as in previous years most of the projects were for archaeological rather than anthropological fieldwork.

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Supported by the John Fell OUP Research Fund


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