The Pitt Rivers Museum has one of the world’s greatest collections displaying collections of Anthropological and Archaeological from the University of Oxford.
The Museum was founded in 1884 by General Augustus Pitt Rivers. He always believed in the collection of everyday objects as ‘works of art’ and this is reflected in his collection. Pitt Rivers described the intellectual framework for his collection and museum displays as:
The objects are arranged in sequence with a view to show … the successive ideas by which the minds of men in a primitive condition of culture have progressed in the development of their arts from the simple to the complex, and from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous. … Human ideas as represented by the various products of human industry, are capable of classification into genera, species and varieties in the same manner as the products of the vegetable animal kingdoms … If, therefore we can obtain a sufficient number of objects to represent the succession of ideas, it will be found that they are capable of being arranged in museums upon a similar plan. [Pitt Rivers]
Augustus Pitt Rivers donated his collection to the University of Oxford with two conditions –
1. That the Museum be built into a house.
2. That All Museum staff must be appointed by lecture and show a keen interest in Archaeology and Anthropology.
The Museum’s Collection is arranged thematically according to how the objects were used, rather than according to their age or origin.
General Pitt Rivers himself, intended the collections to show progression in design and evolution in human culture from the simple to the complex.The Museum displays archaeological and ethnographic objects from all parts of the world. The beginning collections from General Pitt Rivers started at 18,000 objects but now the museum is believed to have over half a million. Many donated by early anthropologists and explorers.