Newest Review: ... is via the Oxford University museum of natural history-also worth a visit. Whats on offer? *************** The Pitt Rivers museum is hous... more
Shrunken heads and Ivory!
Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford)
Member Name: anwar7
Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford)
Disadvantages: difficult to get to.Dim lighting ,can be crowded.
I lived in Oxford for several and one of the most fascinating places I visited during that time has to be the Pitt Rivers museum. The Pitt Rivers museum is internationally famous for its anthropology and world archaeology. The museum was founded in 1884 after general Pitt Rivers gave him eclectic collection to Oxford University. Today the museum has over half a million items on display. Before I tell you what to expect from a visit, let me say that the Pitt Rivers museum is part of Oxford University and is used for teaching and research purposes. It has a very different feel to most museums and the layout can be a bit confusing!
The Pitt Rivers museum is situated on Parks road. There is no on site parking although you may be lucky and find a space on one of the nearby side streets. Do not think about parking in the University car park in South Parks road as you will be clamped! There is one disabled bay outside the museum and this can be booked in advance by phoning the museum on 01865-270927.
There is a comprehensive park and ride system with 5 car parks around the outskirts of the city. From the city centre it is about a 15 minute walk to the museum. Follow the signs along George Street, cross into Broad street and continue to Parks Road. There is no bus service that runs past the museum.
The train station is about a 30 minute walk from the museum, or there are always plenty of taxis available.
Access to the museum is via the Oxford University museum of natural history-also worth a visit.
Whats on offer?
The Pitt Rivers museum is housed in a 3 story Victorian building and has a great atmosphere. There is no suggested route to follow as with many museums. Objects are displayed by type with all historical periods housed together in the same display case. There are 3 galleries each crammed full of items in glass display cases and drawers. Obviously I can't list everything that's on display, but will tell you about my highlights!
The museum houses numerous everyday objects used by Human cultures through the ages and from around the world. There are drawers full of beautiful jewellery that I particularly enjoyed, although my boys were not so impressed! The ground floor has a really interested collection of items bought back by Captain Cook including a beautiful Tahitian mourner's cloak. There is case full of weird and wonderful masks used and another showing items used for magic and rituals. There is section dedicated to musical instruments including a very unusual Indian fiddle in the shape of a peacock.
There are many objects that would not be allowed to be collected today such as those made from ivory and Rhino horn. The most disturbing items in the museum are the Human remains. There are skin shirts decorated with Porcupine quills, bracelets made from Human hair and skull bowls. The most macabre items though have to be the 10 shrunken heads. These are from South America where it was once considered acceptable to kill your enemy, remove their brain and boil the head until they turned black. The result is truly disturbing! The practice was seen as a sign of strength and manhood! My children were fascinated by this section and even bought a book giving more information about the horrible practice! My children also enjoyed looking at the weapons including poison dart shooters.
If you prefer less controversial objects then you may enjoy the pottery or navigation cases. There are some very weird pots on display!
The lighting inside the museum is not very bright as light can damage the artefacts on display. This does make it difficult to see. However it is possible to borrow a torch from the reception desk on your arrival.
Part of the charm of the Pitt Rivers is the Victorian feel including original hand written black and white information signs. However many of these are very difficult to read and identifying some objects can be frustrating! The staff were also helpful and informative ,telling us about objects when the signs were absent!
The Pitt Rivers museum is from Tuesday until Sunday from 10 am -4.30 pm. It is also open on bank holiday Mondays. It is open every Monday from 12 until 4.30 pm.
Entry to the museum is free.
The museum is suitable for those with mobility problems. Although entry involves steps there is a bell to ring for assistance. There is a lift to the upper floors allowing access for wheelchairs and pushchairs. There are toilets including a disabled facility situated on the ground floor. There are also baby changing facilities.
There is no café in the museum. I suggest you bring a picnic and eat in the lovely University parks nearby. There are plenty of cafes in the city centre.
There is a small shop situated on the ground floor. The shop sells such things as scarves,jewellery books and postcards. My children bought a facinating book about the shrunken heads! The prices in the shop were reasonable as far as I can remember.
As outlined this is not the easiest places to get to and will probably involve a bit of a hike. However it is well worth the effort! It is best to visit early or late in the day if possible as the museum can get very crowded. The walkways are quite narrow and getting to the display case and drawers can be difficult. I don't like to feel rushed with other people breathing down my neck and this can be another issue at busy times. I have already mentioned the hand written information signs and dim lighting.
Overall the Pitt Rivers museum is a truly fascinating place to visit and I can highly recommend it! I suggest you allow several hours if you want to see everything on display. There are often special events on offer and these are also free of charge (see the Pitt Rivers web site for details) The museum is suitable for all ages and is a great place to entertain children.
Summary: Museum housing collection of anthropology.
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