Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Expedition to the Stores!

Our fabulous team of primary school education guides meet every month for training opportunities and to develop their knowledge and understanding of the Pitt Rivers Collection.  Recently they were given the chance to go behind the scenes at the largest Pitt Rivers Store where a dedicated team are moving over 100, 000 objects to a new home.

Four ladies stand in a portacabin
Education Guides wait for a glimpse of the Stores! © Pitt Rivers Museum

In order to move location all the objects have to be carefully packed.  This has entailed making a great deal of boxes, photographing every object and labelling everything very carefully indeed.  To find out more about the project follow twitter @Pitt_Stores.


Project assistant points to lots of boxes
Packing boxes! © Pitt Rivers Museum

There are a team of about 15 Project Assistants helping to deliver this project and amongst this group there are designated conservators.  They help to assess the condition of objects and carry out essential conservation work on the artefacts.  The hoover comes out quite a lot when large dusty objects emerge from the collections!


Group of people looks at a loom lying on a table
Conserving a backstop loom © Pitt Rivers Museum

We were also shown some of the hazards of working with objects and the precautions that are taken when working with weapons and potentially poisonous arrowheads.


A group of people look over some weapons
Examining weapons © Pitt Rivers Museum

Lady shows a dagger lined with shark teeth
Weapons lined with sharks teeth © Pitt Rivers Museum

During the visit we were separated into smaller groups and rotated around different stations.  This enabled us to find out more about specific aspects of the project in depth.  For example, we discovered how an object which had been recorded on the original database as one item actually contained multiple parts as it was a lacquered cabinet with lots of tiny boxes inside.  It was a truly fascinating trip and thanks go to Andrew Hughes, Marina De Alarcon and Madeleine Ding for enabling it to happen.


Group of 4 people walk round end of aisle surrounded by stacked boxes and objects
Education Guides scuttling round corners
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Becca McVean
Education Officer (Primary)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Farewell after fifty-one years of guiding........

This year two Primary School Education Guides have stepped down from the team after an incredible fifty-one years of combined service!  A huge thank you goes to Jean Flemming and Rosemary Lee for their great commitment to the Museum and for the number of children they have shown around the Pitt Rivers' Collection.

Lady stands in front of chocolate cake smiling
Jean Flemming © Pitt Rivers Museum

Lady stands next to balloon saying 'You'll be missed'
Rosemary Lee © Pitt Rivers Museum

Jean Flemming was one of the founding members of the Guides 33 years ago.  She was recruited by the late Hélène la Rue, Curator of Music at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Bate Collection, who realised that pupils need to be in small groups if they are to navigate the Museum and engage fully with the objects.  The typological display means that objects from a particular culture are scattered throughout the Museum and need the nimble feet of a Guide to link them together.  So if a class of 30 children want to look at Ancient Egypt they would be divided into 3 smaller groups and would be allocated a Guide each to track down the relevant objects.  The Guides encourage the pupils to interact with the objects through a range of activities and questions.  Jean's background as a teacher and warm personality have made her a natural as a Guide and her top tips to new guides are: 'Keep Smiling.  Be nice to the children. Be welcoming and listen to what they have to say'.

Lady holds up cushion with picture of Pitt Rivers Museum on it and the text 'Thank you Jean'
Thank you presents for Jean! © Pitt Rivers Museum

I asked Jean how Guiding had changed at the Museum since she had first been here.  She told me how in the early years they would devise the trails themselves and how she would scamper down to the printers on Holywell Street to collect trails hot off the press.  Now there is a designated Primary School Education Officer (myself!) to co-ordinate the trails and train the Education Guides. I also asked Jean about memorable occasions and she reminisced about dressing up in Victorian costume to inform children about the explorer Mary Kingsley who travelled around West Africa in the 1890s. Jean has always been prepared to put herself out to accommodate the children and will often do two trails in a day if there is no one else to cover.  Even now she has assured me that if I can't cover a trail she will come along and fill in.  That's Jean - always putting others before herself and absolutely professional in her duties as a Guide.

Group of people stand together smiling
Rosemary's Leaving Tea Party © Pitt Rivers Museum

Rosemary has been volunteering as a Primary School Education Guide for an impressive 18 years. Her advice to new guides would be 'walk the course', arrive in good time and don't get flustered (her previous experience as an orthopaedic nurse probably helped here!) One of her favourite moments was when a group of children were looking at a model of an ivory sledge pulled by huskies.  A child asked her if she had considered that a Lamborghini would go much more quickly than a sledge pulled by dogs. Another child quickly pointed out that a Lamborghini would not cope with all the ice and snow and ruts. The Lamborghini expert then launched into a detailed description of tyres.  Discussions don't always go in the direction you expect!  True to her words of advice, Rosemary has always remained calm with the surprises guiding has thrown at her!  We already miss Rosemary's no nonsense approach but still catch sight of her through her role in the Friends.  Her practical nature stands out when asked about her best moment as a Guide for she replied: " It was a great day when the Museum clock was returned!"

There are still twelve volunteer Education Guides who do a fantastic job of showcasing the collections at the Pitt Rivers.  They engage pupils with the most amazing artefacts from seal-intesine Inuit raincoats to Native American shields and baby carriers.  Find out more about our Guided trails and either book a trail or tell someone about them. They could not happen without the unfailing support of volunteers like Jean and Rosemary so a huge thank you to the whole team of Education Guides.

Becca McVean
Education Officer (Primary)


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Kick Arts Exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum

In Spring 2017 the Pitt Rivers Museum was proud to present the Kick Arts exhibition. Kick Arts is a model of working which allows young people working outside mainstream education to engage with the Arts.

The exhibition was a presentation of the work of eight young people who have been spending one day a week at the Museum since November. They explored the Museum, hunted for inspiration, developed their creative skills and confidence, and discovered new artistic talents they didn't know they had.  Each young person developed their own project, and had their own display of work as part of the exhibition.  The exhibition also comprised of a pop-up collaborative installation on the balcony of the Pitt Rivers Museum, inspired by the Ancient Egyptian coffin, canonic jars and mummies in the Pitt Rivers collection.  The sculptures were made from withy and painted papermache, and the textiles have been created using the wax-resist technique of dying fabric called batik.

The workshops were led by Charlie Henry from OYAP Trust, working with young leaders with a range of arts skills. The programme is part of a Young Roots partnership project between the Pitt Rivers Museum and OYAP Trust, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The young people worked in a variety of creative media, from poetry to rapping, photography, sculpture, film-making and painting. They have all successfully completed a Bronze or Silver Arts Award as part of the project.

We are extremely impressed with the quality of the work from all the young people, as well as their commitment to finishing their work, producing a public exhibition and their Arts Award portfolios. We have loved seeing our collections through new eyes thanks to their creative perspectives! A big thanks and well done to all.






Katherine Rose
Education Officer (Secondary and Young People)
Pitt Rivers Museum

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Japanese Master Carver, Hideta Kitazawa, at the Pitt Rivers Museum


Man sitting cross legged on a  small stage carving a mask.
Japanese Master Carver, Hideta Kitazawa © Pitt Rivers Museum 


In February 2017 Hideta Kitazawa, a Japanese Noh theatre mask carver visited the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, to demonstrate his skills to the public. Kitazawa-san was visiting the UK to deliver a mask that he had recently carved that was to be used in a Noh theatre performance in London, and was running a range of workshops and demonstrations as part of a trip in parnership with the Japan Foundation.


Close up of a chisel being used to carve a wooden mask
Carving a Noh Mask © Pitt Rivers Museum

This short film shows the artist at work on the Clore Learning Balcony of the museum. It was an incredible success. Kitazawa-san is a natural performer and communicator and the public were mesmerised by his work. Some people sat and watched for up to three hours, and on the Saturday the museum received a record number of visitors, over three and a half thousand.

Hideta Kitazawa had previously visited in 2009 to run similar workshops. In 2015 the museum commissioned Kitazawa-san to carve three masks to show the processes that he uses. These are now on display in the museum (PRM 2015.28.2-4) as part of an HLF funded re-display and public engagement project  Need Make Use. There is no doubt that he is a master carver and my personal favourite is a mask that he was commissioned to make for the Williamette Theatre in Oregon US, it’s a mask of Frida Kahlo.

Hideta Kitazawa carves a mask of Frida Kahlo
Carving a mask for the © Pitt Rivers Museum

I feel very privileged to have worked with Kitazawa-san on two occasions. I particularly enjoyed being referred to as Andy-san. The highlight for me was when Kitazawa-san ran an informal workshop with students from Rycotewood Furniture Centre as part of the museum's HLF funded Need Make Use project. The two-way discussion of tools, materials and processes was truly inspiring. I’m looking forward to the next visit. This is a picture of my son wearing one of Kitazawa-san's masks.

Child holds up a Not Mask in front of his face
Wearing one of Kitazawa-san's Masks© Pitt Rivers Museum

Andy McLellan
Head of Education and Outreach
Pitt Rivers Museum 2017