The Pitt Rivers Museum

I have been meaning to revisit the Pitt Rivers Museum, ever since issues of historic collections, the legacy of colonialism and questions of restitution became so much more widely discussed.

I freely confess that I feel a sense of unease, confronted by such rich collections, assembled according to principles of scientific curiosity and taxonomy, now retained apparently as much for the wrongs they demonstrate as for what one might learn of the societies from which they were acquired:-

The interpretation starts with a carving of a colonial officer, B.J.A. Matthews, done by a Yoruba artist in the 1930s:-

It is slightly hard to work out the system of labelling as between the modern labels – typed – and the hand-written ones which have been retained to give a feel for the history of the collection:-

Lord Tollemache’s moosehair suit is in unexpectedly good condition:-

Having survived so long intact and being such an astonishing manifestation of the late Victorian collecting world, one can only hope that it will now survive relatively unmodernised, whatever the attitudes it may exhibit, indeed precisely because of it being such a complete documentary and visual record of the colonial mindset.


One thought on “The Pitt Rivers Museum

  1. Leslie Hills says:

    Dear Charles, There is an American Academy of Arts session in which I think you might be interested. I have only your RA email. If you email me on I will forward the details to you.

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