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Published November 21st 2014
More Than The Pitts
Well, Harry Potter lovers might just believe that the famous Pitt Rivers Museum is the inspiration for Diagon Alley, however there are some that believe it may very well be Artillery Passage in London's EC1. What is definitely accurate is that Pitt Rivers Museum is one hell of an attraction, if not for just the interior architecture alone.
Stunning Interior @ Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford (photo instagram @neelsmcgee)
When I first approached this historic establishment I was blown away by the sheer size. Resembling, somewhat a Victorian inspired building right out of Pride & Prejudice, Pitt Rivers Museum is a must see for all tourists and locals alike.
When you enter its doors, you are greeted by palatial ceilings dating back to 1884 when the museum first opened. Decked with three storeys of wrought-iron platforms and an awe-inspiring collection of thousands of lost cultures, it is almost impossible to establish a structured viewing sequence to examine all the collections on offer.
Pitt Rivers Museum does have permanent displays all year round, which are of ethnographic and archaeological origins. The layout of the museum has been arranged to display artifacts in a thematic arrangement, as oppose to a geographical origin. The first level of the museum caters to the pre-historic animal world. Dinosaurs and the impressive skeletal jaw of the sperm whale are two of the highlights in this part, along with the bones of a woolly mammoth.
When looking at how objects in the museum were obtained, it is difficult to generalise because the museum has been acquiring objects for more than a century, from a variety of sources. These have included: archaeological digs, anthropological fieldwork trips (collected by anthropologists whilst living in a community they are studying); they have been purchased by explorers or travellers, have been brought back by colonial administrators; and they have been acquired at sales and auctions in the UK.
Exterior of Pitt Rivers Museum @ Oxford (photo by @neelsmcgee)
Many of the objects in the museum are examples of utensils that were used in the day to day life of our forefathers. The single biggest example of this is the collection of stone tools. Everyday objects are sometimes not considered necessarily precious or valuable in monetary terms, and they would probably have been thrown away had not been collected and given to the museum. The key aspect of having items like this at Pitt Rivers is to demonstrate just how people lived and thought in different cultures across the world.
As you weave through the levels it is nice to see children admiring history instead of playing video games. I know as a child I would have been completely mesmerised by the artifacts that were present before me. I could see many were fascinated by the African animals and slightly scared of the shrunken heads in the Egyptian area. I can only imagine a few sleepless nights would be instore when children viewed some of the totemic tribal masks with daring expressions that would no doubt have left them on edge.
Bird Display @ Pitt Rivers Museum (photo by @neelsmcgee)
The museum is a free experience for all, with an option to donate to continue with the maintenance of Pitt Rivers as well as the continued research and study of the establishments curators and volunteers. If you find yourself in Oxford this is a memorable place to visit which will have you stepping back to a time that some of us may only remember from a Spielberg movie and long before the likes of one Harry Potter.
Interior @ Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford (photo by @neelsmcgee)