Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A miscellany of things on an Assistant Curators desk!

From left to right; two Mexican ceramic heads; 1977.15.1& .2; mummified ibis 1894.40.11894.40.1; figure of Buddha, Myanmar 1894.27.167; tattooing apparatus, Myanmar 1884.27.41; mummified ibis in pottery vessel 1901.30.1 & .2; zither in the shape of a crocodile, Myanmar; 1938.34.58 © Pitt Rivers Museum

As a member of the collections department I often have a number of interesting objects for cataloguing and photography on my desk. The objects out on this particular day were so for a number of reasons. The Mexican pottery heads were for a photographic request. Scholars often require studio images of objects for publication and research. I retrieve the object from storage/display and get the object to our professional photographer. The mummified ibises were out for a request to be sampled. Sampling requests for scientific research have to be considered very carefully in consultation with the conservation department. The zither, statue and tattooing implement from Myanmar will go on loan for exhibition to The Linden Museum Stuttgart, Germany for the exhibition 'Myanmar - The Golden Land'. Before objects can be loaned we have to assess if they are suitable for travel before the loan is approved they then have to be catalogued and condition checked. These are just some of the elements of work, highlighted by the objects on my desk on one particular day that goes on in the collections department of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Faye Belsey 
Assistant Curator

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Collections A Hive Of Activity

Jeremy busy at his desk © Pitt Rivers Museum
I thought you might enjoy seeing what everyone in the Collections Department is doing this morning.  All is a hive of activity:

Jeremy, Curator and Joint Head of Collections, is busy answering enquiries.

Marina is doing some research on objects in the collection made by the Ainu people from Japan.

In the Photo Collection are images of an Ainu village set up at the 1910 Japan-British exhibition in London. These images were also produced commercially as postcards. Marina has been able to match objects in these pictures to objects now in the Museum collection.

Marina studying the photos and postcards to identify the objects from the collections © Pitt Rivers Museum
Maddie and Faye are busy showing part of the textile collection to a group of tapestry weavers.

Left: Maddie getting the textiles out ready, right: Maddie & Faye during the tapestry weavers visit © Pitt Rivers Museum
Meanwhile, Sian has been to the off-site store to bring back some objects ready for a new metalwork display; while I am working on updating the introductory guide for the West African masks.

Left: Sian bringing objects back to the Museum, right: me, working at my desk © Pitt Rivers Museum

All in all another busy day...

Zena McGreevy
Senior Assistant Curator

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Chamberlain Japanese Collection and Ginkaku-ji

When I went to Japan in early November and stayed in Kyoto for a few days, I visited a few temples including Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion). It is designated as a national treasure of Japan, and is very popular among both Japanese and foreign tourists.

Ginkaku-ji with 'Kogetsudai' (Moon viewing platform) in the centre © Fusa McLynn
One of the reasons why I wanted to visit Ginkaku-ji was, in fact, the Chamberlain collection. The collection includes numerous maps and plans of holy places as well as amulets from Japan. One of the maps shows Ginkaku-ji with its garden including 'Kogetsudai' (Moon viewing platform) clearly marked. My English friend once called it a Christmas pudding. You can see why if you look at the photo above.

Map of Ginkaku-ji in the Pitt Rivers Museum Chamberlain collection PRM 1908.82.465 © Pitt Rivers Museum
At the top margin of the map, there is a poem with the name of the poet. The name reads as 'Jishoin dono Yoshimasa ko'. This is the 8th Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436 - 1490), who was the founder of Ginkaku-ji.

The place did not originally start as a temple but was actually designed as an elegant villa for Yoshimasa. He was a very cultured man but tragically weak. He failed to take strong political leadership and so became responsible for the outbreak of a civil war, which lasted 10 years and ruined Kyoto completely. Having had enough with politics, he retired, abandoned his official residence, and made his son the next shogun, allowing his wife Hino Tomiko to become extremely powerful. (She is one of very few women who came to power in Japanese history). Then he started to build this villa in 1482. Rather sadly he never saw its completion. Although he was a disastrous ruler, he played an important role to develop Japanese traditional arts such as flower arrangement and tea ceremony. He was also talented in garden designing. After his death, the place became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect. Thus it is now called Ginkaku-ji (ji means temple in Japanese). But it is a sort of nickname and the formal name is 'Jisho-ji', which takes after Yoshimasa's posthumous name.

When I opened the information leaflet given at the temple, the first thing I saw was a familiar map of the place! It is not totally identical to the one at the Pitt Rivers but it is very similar.

The cover and map page of the information leaflet © Fusa McLynn
Thinking about the troubled and miserable shogun who left such a beautiful legacy, and B.H. Chamberlain who was so well versed in Japanese art and literature, I enjoyed walking in the garden under the warm autumn sun.

The garden at Ginkaku-ji © Fusa McLynn
Fusa McLynn
Collections Volunteer