Current Museum Research


The Future of Ethnographic Museums at Pitt Rivers Museum and Keble College 19 – 21 July 2013

The conference, involving ten major European ethnography Museums, marked the completion of the five-year RIME project funded by the European Union. The conference was addressed by James Clifford (University of California at Santa Cruz) and other leading figures in the study of museums and anthropology.
Further information about the Future of Ethnographic Museum conference.

Sound collections project, 2013-14

This project (March 2013 – Jan 2014), funded by a grant from the William Delafield Charitable Trust, will continue the Museum’s recent focus on its sound collections. As a result of the successfully completed ‘Reel to Real’ project (2012-13), the PRM’s sound collections are now being used and listened to widely, and plans are in place for their use in the Museum’s current HLF-funded redisplay programme. One of the major foci of this continuation project will be the digitization and documentation of a further donation of sound recordings made by Louis Sarno in 2012, which brings his collection right up to date in terms of Bayaka music making. Thanks to additional support from the James A. Swan Fund, a further visit from Louis Sarno is also planned for autumn 2013, to help enhance the PRM sound database, as well as public outreach and student interaction. For more information about this project, visit the sound collections blog.

excavating PR

‘Excavating Pitt-Rivers’ Project

The Victorian archaeologist General Pitt-Rivers is world-famous for his development of modern scientific archaeology, but the earliest archaeological collections that he made have never been studied. The Pitt Rivers Museum, where these artefacts are held, has been awarded £76,654 by Arts Council England’s Designation Development Fund to document this important early material. More Information about the 'Excavating Pitt-Rivers' project | 'Excavating Pitt-Rivers' Project blog

Scoping Museum Anthropology

A one-year research project, funded by the John Fell Oxford University Press Research Fund. It will form a scoping excercise and (hopefully) a precursor to a OUMNH stafflarger project focussing on the pre-history of museum anthropology and also on the individuals who contributed to the development of museum anthropology at Oxford which culminated in the founding of the Pitt Rivers Museum and establishment of the first paid anthropological lecturer-post at a British university, filled by Edward Burnett Tylor. The primary investigator for the project is Jeremy Coote and the researcher is Alison Petch. The project will run from 1 September 2012 to end August 2013. Go to the Scoping Museum Anthropology project site

Sound and Music / Pitt Rivers Museum / Oxford Contemporary Music artist in residence (Embedded program) 2012-13

The Museum is pleased to announce the appointment of Nathaniel Robin Mann as artist in residence under Sound and Music's Embedded program. Sound artist, composer and multi-instrumentalist, Mann is a member of Avant Folk outfit Dead Rat Orchestra. He has produced audio works for Factum Arte (Madrid), where he coordinated projects for a cross section of the world's contemporary artists. In 2008 he won the Grand Prix of the 11th Cairo Arts Biennial with Lara Baladi. The 18-month residency will enable the artist to use the Museum's collections as a creative platform for new work and performance, drawing inspiration from its significant musical instrument collection and archive recordings. More information on the music artist in residence program.

Characterizing the World Archaeology Collections of the Pitt Rivers World ArchaeologyMuseum

The project, funded by a grant of £116,325 from the John Fell OUP Research Fund and with additional support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (IfA Workplace Bursaries scheme) and the Boise Fund, ran between 2009 and 2012. Led by Dr Dan Hicks (Curator of Archaeology and University Lecturer), the project developed the first overview of the range and research potential of the Museum's world archaeology collections. The project resulted in a book, published in March 2013. World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: a characterization introduces the range, history and significance of the archaeological collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum. For more information, and to read the book online see the World Archaeology research page:

Small Blessings: Animating the Pitt Rivers’ Amulet Collection

Building on the success and impact of more than a decade of DDF grants to improve the care and interpretation of collections, this project will focus on a major collection of religious and folkloric amulets collected by the French ethnologist Adrien de Mortillet more than a century ago and acquired by Sir Henry Wellcome before its transfer to Oxford. Read more Small Blessings project.

Reel to Real: Giving the Pitt Rivers Museum’s Sound Collections a Voice

No human sense is more neglected in ethnographic museums than sound. This project will make available for the widest use, both in and beyond the museum space itself, the important sound collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum. Drawing on identified expertise and innovative collaboration with the British Library and the Oxford e-Research Centre, this 12 month project will explore the potential for making the PRM’s sound recordings better understood and more widely used, for the benefit both of the general public and future researchers. Read more about the Reel to Real project.

Conservation Fellowship for research into Captain Cook’s Collections

The Clothworkers’ Foundation has awarded an £80,000 Conservation Fellowship to Jeremy Uden, Senior Conservator at the Museum, for research into objects collected on the first and second voyages of Captain Cook to the Pacific. Learn more about the research into Captail Cook's collection project.

Ruskin College collaboration

Providing ongoing opportunities in the Museum for student volunteers from Ruskin College. Learn more about the Ruskin college programme.

Globalization, Photography, and Race: the Circulation and Return of Aboriginal Photographs in Europe, 2011-2015

As a medium of exchange, photographs of Aboriginal people have served vastly different purposes within indigenous and Western knowledge systems, from embodiments of kin and ancestral powers, to visual data that actively created scientific knowledge. In the digital age, it has become an urgent matter to understand and balance these traditions. This project brings together research on photograph collections in Oxford, Cambridge, Paris and Leiden, to explore the global circulation of photographs of Australian Aboriginal people that began in the 1840s, charting their central role within the major shift in Western visual culture from Enlightenment humanism to the emergence of modern views regarding race and history. It will also return digital copies of photographs currently housed in Europe to their subjects’ descendants, providing a major Indigenous heritage resource. Read more about the project.

Pictures worth a thousand words: Developing a digital image bank at the Pitt Rivers Museum, 2011-12

This Esmée Fairbairn Foundation-sponsored project will seek to develop a digital image bank at the Museum. Devising a methodology for adding images to the on-line collections records, and a management system for those images; to scan and digitise the Museumʼs non- digitised images and to deposit them in the digital ʻimage bankʼ; and to add to the ʻbankʼ existing digital images.

Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) Thesiger Project, 2010–11

This ADACH-sponsored project focuses on photographs taken in the United Arab Emirates by the renowned traveller, writer and photographer Sir Wilfred Thesiger in the 1940s. It will result in a new set of high-resolution digital versions of Thesiger's negatives, as well an enhanced catalogue of the images based on detailed new research. A new database bringing together both images and catalogue details will be produced, enabling this important historical resource to be researched and enjoyed by people in the UAE for the first time. The Museum is pleased to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with ADACH in 2010 that will enable further close collaboration on the study of the Thesiger collection, building on the earlier generous support of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Something for every body: letting loose the Museumʼs cross-cultural collections of body arts and ornaments, 2010-11

The Pitt Rivers Museum is delighted to have been awarded a grant of £78,120 from the MLAʼs Designation Development Fund (DDF). The project will focus on the Museumʼs exceptional collection of body arts material, ranging from equipment for tattooing to lip plugs, breast implants and Victorian keepsakes. Go to the Body Art website.Pitt_rivers

Rethinking Pitt-Rivers:
Analysing the Activities of a 19th-Century Collector 2009-12

The Pitt Rivers Museum is pleased to announce that an application to The Leverhulme Trust for funding of a project to 'rethink Pitt-Rivers' has been successful. The three-year project will start in a few months time and more information will follow in due course. Read more about the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project.

Previous Museum research projects

A list of previous Museum research projects