Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Percy Manning Archive

Madeleine Ding looking through one of Manning's notebooks © Pitt Rivers Museum
In 2017 Oxford University Museums and libraries will be celebrating the centenary of folklorist, archaeologist and antiquarian Percy Manning. Oxford educated Manning, born in 1870 in Leeds, came to Oxford in 1888 to study at New College and went on to live out his adult life in Oxford. He was very much apart of the intellectual hub that encapsulated Oxford and to this end became very involved in various Oxford societies. His interests in folklore, custom and tradition in Oxfordshire led him to collect material culture reflecting this, in particular was his interest in collecting in the material and immaterial sense anything associated with Morris dancing and one of his most notable achievements was reviving this ‘dying’ tradition.

Object labels found in the archive possibly referring to 
objects donated to the PRM by Manning in 1911 
© Pitt Rivers Museum

In 1911 Manning donated a plethora of what can only be described as miscellaneous utilitarian objects of English origin to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Unlike the archaeological material he had donated to the Ashmolean Museum, the objects donated to the PRM come with comparatively little contextual information. The motivation for him to collect these objects and then donate them to the PRM is unclear though the influence of the PRM’s curator at the time, Henry Balfour, was sure to have played a role.

Article written by Henry Balfour on Whithorns kept by Manning 
© Pitt Rivers Museum

My colleague Madeleine Ding and I are planning how the PRM should commemorate Manning in 2017 and hope to have small display including a Morris dancers outfit from Kirtlington, Whit horns from Ducklington and other objects from the PRM’s collections. In order to try and get a better understanding of this material and Manning himself, we recently visited the new Weston Library to view parts of Manning’s extensive archive held by the Bodleian. Given Manning’s fastidiousness with recording information about traditions and folk life in Oxfordshire, we were hoping to find more references to the material now in the PRM’s collections. The archives are very interesting and include correspondence between Manning and his filed collector Thomas James Carter, newspaper clippings and snippets of articles. It left us with lots to think about!

Mannings notes on the revival of Morris dancing © Pitt Rivers Museum
Article that appeared in Folklore magazine, 1897, the publication of the 
Folklore society of which Manning was a member, written by Manning 
on 'Some Oxfordshire Seasonal Festivities' © Pitt Rivers Museum
Correspondence from Carter to Manning listing expenses of having 
traveled to various Oxfordshire villages for fact finding and 
collecting on behalf of Manning © Pitt Rivers Museum

Faye Belsey 
Assistant Curator 

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