We made a visit to the museum; it is free admission and has a wonderful collection. It is of course more than the shrunken heads they are famous for - lots to see over a number of floors.
We visited late on Sunday afternoon, so did not have very much time at all - however we had a enough of a visit to see how extensive the collection of the University is, and appreciate that time is needed to make a meaningful visit.
You should note that to gain admission to the Pitt Rivers Museum, you have to walk through the Oxford University Natural History Museum. There is no entry charge to the museum, and they have a shop with a reasonable selection of items to remember your visit.
This museum, tucked away behind the Oxford University Natural History Museum is just a mass of fascinating objects gathered together under headings such as Musical instruments - Drums, North American Baskets, Objects to ward off enemies and model boats, all gathered from around the world and with minimal labelling. In fact most of the labels are handwritten in tiny spidery ink and often attached with thread.
It's an anthropological collection of amazing variety. Some visitors may be frustrated by by the lack of information and the somewhat random way the items are displayed in cases but you can't help but be inspired by the fantastic gathering of objects mostly collected over the last two centuries.
The museum is kept in dimly lit conditions presumably to help preserve the colours within the objects. Surprisingly there did not appear to be any restrictions on the use of photography. I certainly didnt notice any signs and most people seemed to take a few photos.
The other really good feature is that it is free entry although visitors are encouraged to donate a minimum of £2.00 each.
Pitt Rivers, despite his filmstar name was a real person who after inheriting a large estate became an avid archeologist and collector of just about everything he could lay his hands on.
Founded from his various collections in 1884, the museum still occupies one large tiered room that is stuff full of objects from all over the world. Guns to mask, boats to skins it's all in there somewhere.
It's surprising that many people miss the museum entirely as it is located at the back of Oxford's natural history museum (various dinosaurs and dead bats on display). There is however a redevelopment going on at the moment, to be completed in spring 2009, that will re-open the original floorplan with an unrestricted view from the entrance to the impressive totem pole at the rear.
It's free, and great for kids (if you tear them away from the dinasaurs in the Natural history) and an amazing resource for anyone interested in ethnographic, archeological or anthropological fields.
What a wonderful treasure in Oxford, argurably the best in town. the Pitts Rivers Museum is an institution with a great wealth of cultural information with some of the rarest artifacts found in the world.
Something very tourist-friendly here is the free admission (though money contribution is very encouraged) and the fairly liberal photography allowance. I went snapping away but also read the informative wrute-ups on several of the exhibit items.
I cannot capture in words how much it is worth the time to spend here. I long to come back here and take in every corner of this place!
The museum is seperated on three levels: court, first and second floor.
-A curious thing that artists who would like to get inspired at the museum. Only dry materials are allow in the museum (no piants, etc). No leaning on the glass desks allowed. It is recommended to bring clipboards to use with drawing/sketch paper.
- Parking is rather limited here, especially during reconstruction efforts (Check website for updates on this). If staying in Oxford it's rather easy just taking public transportation to get here and most atractions instead.
- I found the toilet rooms and lifts very clean and convenient for visitors.
10.00 - 16.30 Tuesday to Sunday (and Bank Holiday Mondays)
12.00 - 16.30 Mondays
Many people will have already heard of this museum. It is after all world famous.
To gain access you have to walk through the University Museum, which itself is pretty dam good.
The best thing to do is check the internet for the opening times, so as to avoid disappointment.
Best to turn up without too much knowledge, so the experience is a fresh one.
A treasure house of zoological, entomological and geological exhibits, among them the skeleton of an iguanadon dominating the main hall and a model of a dodo(plus remains of the real thing)brought to England in 1638.
Through the doors to the rear is an exotic collection of artefacts from all corners of the world, begun by Lt-General Pitt-Rivers(1827-1900)when serving abroad with the Grenadier Guards. A cabinet containing the shruken heads of Ecuadorian Indians, along with shrinking instructions, is one of the more ghoulish exhibits in this temple to Victorian scientific curiosity.
I first went to this museum on a school trip when i was about 9 or 10 and it's one of those rare places on a travel itinerary that should keep most kids enchanted for a good long while! it's a fabulous collection of weird and wonderful exotic stuff from all over the world from artifacts & handy crafts to voodoo dolls & shrunken heads! all housed in a gorgeous neo-gothic building along with the Natural History Museum (another must see even if you only go for the stunning victorian high gothic architecture and glorious vaulted glass ceilings!) and with all these fascinating treasures snugly packed and displayed in a way that's like you're walking through a fabulous magical multi-cultural Bazaar or some mad archeologist/explorers secret stash of wonders!
It's been many years since i've been but i remember it's enchanting & exciting feel to this day.. hope it hasn't changed a bit!
P.S.. oh yeah.. and it's free!! :D
Open Every Day 12.00 - 4.30 pm
The Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum on Parks Road is my favourite of Oxford's Museums. In front of museum there is nice grass area for picnics or relaxing. My old department is just across the street from here.
The museum houses more than 500,000 archaeological artifacts from all over the world. It gets its name from the first benefactor, General Pitt Rivers, who donated his collection to Oxford University in 1884. There are lots of objects collected by explorers, including some taken from Tahiti by Captain Cook.
The objects are arranged not by the area from which they originate, but by type - so you can find all the boats the museum has in the same place. Something that really irks some museum professionals!
Wandering around the oh-so-strange yet oddly familiar Oxford in search of someone to tell her all about Dust - the so-called Dark Matter hypothesised in our world to account for the missing 90+% of the mass of the universe but in her world said by the Church to be the source of Original Sin - Lyra comes upon this, "a grand building that didn't exist in her world at all, though it wouldn't have looked out of place".
This is the University Museum of Natural History, and accessed through it is the Pitt-Rivers Museum, which deals with anthropology. In the Pitt-Rivers Museum she encounters a display of trepanned skulls which, she learns through her alethiometer, are 33,000 years old and covered in Dust (as well as dust). In here too she encounters the villainous Sir Charles Latrom.
The Pitt-Rivers Museum also features in the Inspector Morse books, notably in The Daughters of Cain, in which a key development involves a sleight of hand with the display cases.
Hard to find as you have to go through the university museum to get in, this is a fascinating, but eccentric collection of anthropological souvenirs, quite literally stuffed into every available cabinet. Perhaps not for the highly squeamish, but I really enjoyed the display of early medical instruments.