Monday, 30 May 2016

A Visit to the Store, the Museum's own 'Pottery Barn'

Sian and I recently visited the Museum's off-site store to identify objects for the new world archaeology displays. We had a longlist of interesting objects to search for since the run of cases will most likely be displayed by type of material, rather than by chronology or geography to maintain the Museum's typological approach to arrangements.

We started looking for pottery objects first as most of our pottery reserve collections are in the store, which will soon be undergoing a major move.

Retrieving boxes of archaeology from the Museum store
© Pitt Rivers Museum

'Angel Inn' mug, 1887.1.409
© Pitt Rivers Museum
The Museum's pottery collections (objects made from fired clay) include Egyptian faience ushabti figures, pottery tiles from India, Japanese wheel-turned stoneware, and – from closer to home – a glazed beer tankard from the Angel Inn on Oxford's High Street, now the University of Oxford's Examination Schools (left). 

Below is a terracotta 'plank' figurine, one of four such figurines from the excavations of Dr Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) at Mycenae, Greece in the 1870s. It is thought to date to the Archaic period during the Iron Age (700-600 BC). You can read more about the Schliemann collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum here (Chapter 15.2.4).

Staff holding an Iron Age 'plank' figurine from Mycaene, Greece
'Plank' figurine, Mycenae, Greece PRM 1887.20.57 © Pitt Rivers Museum

The selected objects will be transported back to the Museum for inspection by the project team including Project Curator Helen Adams, Curator for Archaeology Prof Dan Hicks, and Interim Director and Curator for Americas Prof Laura Peers.

three trays of archaeological pottery
Packed 'bakers' trays ready for transporting © Pitt Rivers Museum

Madeleine Ding
VERVE Curatorial Assistant

Monday, 9 May 2016

Moving upstairs: archaeology

The VERVE: Need / Make / Use project has entered its third and final phase with new displays focusing on the world archaeology collections at the Museum. 

Ten desktop cases in the Upper Gallery of the Museum, currently filled with images of recent research projects, will be reutilised to demonstrate the variety and and richness of our archaeology collections. 

View of the cases along the Pitt Rivers Museum's Upper Gallery
Upper Gallery © Pitt Rivers Museum

Since 2009, when an old display of archaeological material was removed from the west end of the Upper Gallery to make space for a new permanent display of firearms, the majority of the Museum's archaeological collections have been held in on- and off-site storage. So this presents an exciting opportunity to make them available to visitors, including many items that have never been on public display before.

To aid our selection process we have made a Correx® 'mock-up' of a desktop case, which we will take to our offsite store. This will enable us to quickly check if an object will physically fit within the case's dimensions and so prevent the unnecessary transportation of objects to the Museum that are too big.

Mock-up display case made of Correx
A Correx® mock-up of a desktop case © Pitt Rivers Museum

With so many amazing objects to choose from we hope to make some great discoveries. One tool to help us and the curator in the search will be the recent publication, World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: A Characterisation by Dan Hicks and Alice Stevenson (2013), which has sought to scope and analyse the breadth and diversity of the collection, exploring more than 135,000 artefacts from 145 countries from the Stone Age to modern times. The book is available in open access form here

World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum (2013) 

We will keep you updated on our progress!

Sian Mundell and Madeleine Ding
VERVE Curatorial Assistants