Oxford University’s Pitt Rivers Museum has received a grant of £76,654 to document some of its founder’s earliest archaeological collections.
The grant, awarded by the Arts Council England’s Designation Development Fund, will mean that roughly 7,500 prehistoric artefacts from General Pitt-Rivers’ collections can be studied for the first time.
The artefacts come from sites across the UK, including a medieval castle in Kent, Iron Age hill-forts in Sussex, Bronze Age barrows in Yorkshire and from early ‘rescue’ archaeology at Roman sites in central London.
The project will take 14 months to complete and will begin in November 2012, led by archaeologist Dr Dan Hicks.
Dr Michael O’Hanlon, Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum, said: “The documentation offers the exciting prospect of energising links with local archaeological societies and with county archaeologists.
“It will allow them to enrich their records and to learn more about the archaeology of our counties. In turn, we will be able to further improve our understanding of these artefacts.”
The documentation will be published on the Pitt Rivers Museum’s database, which receives over 30 million hits per year. Those who wish to access some of the materials in person can visit the museum, where they will be able to view them in person.
Students from across the University can benefit from such close proximity to this new resource. Sam Packer, a first year Ancient and Modern History student at Somerville, said: “As someone studying both Classical and Medieval history I am extremely excited at the prospect of these remains being just a stone’s throw away.”
Luke Barratt, a Classicist, agreed: “I’m delighted that the Pitt-Rivers museum has been awarded this grant. The archaeological remains will doubtless be invaluable to my study of the ancient world.”
Dr O’Hanlon said: “We currently have over one thousand artefacts on display and in storage, significantly more than most other museums in the country.”
General Pitt-Rivers is most famous for his excavations in Cranborne Chase, between Wiltshire and Dorset. This project is dedicated to examining his earliest work, from the 1860s and ‘1870s.
The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884, when Pitt-Rivers donated his entire archaeological collection to Oxford University. The museum has permanent displays of historic artefacts from around the world, including masks from Africa, North America and Japan, and Hawaiian feather cloaks.
The museum was also “delighted” to announce this week that the museum is to receive a grant totalling over £1 million pounds from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The grant will go towards the £1.6m VERVE project (Visitors, Engagement, Renewal, Visibility, Enrichment) which will fund vital conservation, display refreshment, new case lighting and a range of public activities.
Stuart McLeod, Head of the HLF South East, said: “This fantastic project will really bring the museum’s collections to life for everyone to explore. HLF is dedicated to supporting projects, like VERVE, that open up our fascinating heritage for local people and visitors to learn about and enjoy.”
“By redisplaying 1,800 objects, conserving existing collections and introducing an exciting range of events and activities, the Pitt Rivers museum will continue to be a great addition to Oxford’s tourist offering.”
Photo // Brett Tully