Monday, 20 July 2015

Research Visitors at the Pitt Rivers

As a new member of the Collections Department, I will be facilitating research visits to the museum. We receive on average around 300 research visits per year. Researchers from all over the world come to the museum to get a closer look at the objects in the collection. It is a great opportunity for researchers to further their knowledge about particular objects or collections through the use of many different methods of enquiry; whether that is understanding how an object is made, the collecting practices of a particular individual, or undertaking a comparative study of a group of objects.

Band heddle with partly woven ankle band PRM 1918.16.1 © Pitt Rivers Museum

When a researcher contacts the museum, I ensure that the objects are retrieved in good time, so that, if needed, I can mark the objects with their accession number, and check that the measurements on the database are correct. If there isn’t a good quality photograph of the object, I will take a new reference shot and upload it onto the database and the museum’s online database. We are always keen to enhance the quality of information that we have on the collections, and we always encourage our research visitors to contribute any new information that they may have.

It has only been my fourth week here, and I have already seen some amazing objects in the collection. Firstly, I assisted a visitor who was investigating the weaving techniques of the Sami people, looking in particular at woven belts and weaving equipment. We also had a group visit, who were looking at Tongan material from Captain James Cook’s second voyage. Particular highlights included a very large tapa, made from barkcloth which has been stencilled with a dye. It was really something to see the tapa up close, and to hear about the lengthy and involved process in making such a large piece. It is a great opportunity to listen and discuss ideas about the objects in the museum’s collection, with experts. It is also very satisfying to be able to share this knowledge through the museum’s online database. It is one of the many ways that the museum produces new understandings of the collections, and it enables us to diversify how the collections are used. By enhancing the database with the information provided by researchers, we are able to ensure that the highest quality of information on the collection is delivered to people from all over the world.

A Tongan barkcloth PRM 1886.1.1238 © Pitt Rivers Museum

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Nicholas Crowe
Assistant Curator

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