Inspire 9 & 10 – The Pitt Rivers Museum

About The Pitt Rivers Museum:

The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884 and is located next to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. It accommodates over 500,000 exhibits, and this collection continues to grow through donations and carefully considered purchases. Amongst its collection, the museum holds objects of ethnographic and archaeological importance, as well as significant photographic, sound and film resources. Aware of the contentious nature in which many of its objects were historically acquired, the museum is working hard to explain the complicated and sometimes uncomfortable histories of these objects. To do so, the museum it is updating its exhibit labels to highlight contentious acquisitions, as well as initiating co-curational approaches to ensure that diverse voices are heard.

Activity 1 – Talking Threads:

This video highlights how the coronavirus pandemic encouraged the museum to digitise many of its artefacts, including its range of textiles and clothing. By photographing and scanning these artefacts, the curators have been able to produce detailed, microscopic views of complex thread structures. During this process, the museum consulted communities from which these items originate, and used their expertise to give a better understanding of each item’s heritage and original function. This, it is hoped, will facilitate more accurate and transparent exhibit descriptions in the future.  

Activity 2 – Exploring Key Themes

The Pitt Rivers Museum provides an extensive list of downloadable learning resources. They encapsulate the themes of the museum’s prominent exhibits, with titles including ‘Animals & Beliefs’, ‘Treatment of the Dead’, ‘Cosmetics’ and ‘Tattooing’. Select two documents you find most interesting and consider the following.

  • How do these practices compare to contemporary practices?
  • Are there any similarities in the way

Activity 3 – Memoirs in my Suitcase

This project explores the relationship between the genetics and geography of Britain. This resource highlights numerous factors which have influenced settlement change over time, including fluctuating climatic conditions, invasion and migration. For this project, the museum has taken DNA samples from 2000 British people, and produced a map which highlights links between ancestry and geographical location.


Activity 3 highlights some of the possessions that Turkish migrants took with them to Germany and outlines their significance. The necessity of this departure meant that migrants could only take limited belongings, striking a balance between sentimental and functional value.  

If your circumstances changed and you had to migrate to another country, which 5 items would you take and why?  

Consider this and write your ideas down.