Despite spending a wonderful year in Oxford I had not, much to my chagrin, visited the two linked museums in oxford – the Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers. So a few days past, thanks to the prodding of a very dear friend, I finally made the excursion to see the muss and fuss (and of course the Shrunken Heads!)
What followed was a realisation that these two museums are severely lacking in space. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that they were by any means shoddy or architecturally minuscule… Rather I make such a comment simply to make more dramatic the point (as is my habit ; p) that the institutions are absolutely bursting with an amazingly diverse collection of artefacts, fossils and various bits and bobs. While I have had the pleasure of visiting many museums, none made so vigorous an effort to catalogue the minutia of human existence as did the Pitt Rivers. And the Museum of Natural History can boast many wonders of its own… From masks to games to arms to cosmetics – the various displays house thousands of little pieces of the human story.
But it’s not all tiny puzzle pieces of the grander human experiment (apologies for the mixed metaphor). There is also much for the less anthropologically inclined, such as dinosaur fossils, various extinct species of animals and a fairly decent collection of stuffed animals. Admittedly I did not spend much time in Natural History Museum, owing most to the fact that I found it difficult to stare at the stuffed remains of so many beautiful creatures, which I would have given much to see in the wild. Sadly for many of us, and especially generations to come, stuffed and mounted is probably the only way many of them will ever be seen.
My personal thoughts on conservation and preservation aside, the Pitt Rivers is a wonderful family friendly afternoon that I encourage all of you in or about Oxford to drop in on. Admission is free and you can even enjoy a nice picnic in the garden out front.