Small Blessings: Animating the Pitt Rivers’ Amulet Collection

Artisans of Memory: Behind-the-scenes of an amulets project

A series of short films about the project, 'Small Blessings: Animating the Pitt Rivers’ Amulet Collection' (2012), which documented and curated a collection of several thousand amulets. The series follows the progress and practices of those connected with the project as they unravel the stories surrounding these curious objects.

Introduction - In this episode we hear about the two main areas of activity of the project - improved documentation and public access - and expected outcomes.


Induction - new members of staff are welcomed to the Museum and get to grips with the task at hand.


The Stores - we go behind the scenes to see where the amulets had been kept at the Museum's storage facility, alongside thousands of other artefacts in 'reserve collections'.


Cataloguing - In this episode, the new staff are trained how to create records for objects, learning about museum accession numbers and the art of describing an object in words.


Conservation - Up to ten percent of the amulets catalogued and examined during the project have needed conservation treatment and here we meet some of the people involved in this crucial aspect of museum work.


Technology - This episode looks at how the project has enabled the Pitt Rivers to experiment with mobile devices and social media.


Display - As a PRM technician puts together a case display of amulets in the Museum, collections staff travel to London to check and retrieve some amulets that have been on loan for an exhibition.


Reaching Out - Our education and outreach staff explain how they take a topic such as amulets and use it to engage different audiences, from children to adult community groups.

Photography - Here we see how photography is used to document objects and also how ethnographic photographs constitute an important archive in their own right.



Cake - The team reflect on what's been achieved but also a downside to the end of project work - loss of staff. But at least they find an excuse to eat lots of cake.

amulets website



Small Blessings - Amulets at the Pitt Rivers website

TExplore these curious objects from Adrien de Mortillet's amulet collection and discover the intriguing stories behind them.

Go to the Small blessings - Amulets at the Pitt Rivers website