Charles Seligman Beatrice Blackwood PRM Museum John Hutton Henry Balfour Edward Tylor Augustus Fox

Geographical statistics about the Pitt Rivers Museum s collections up to 1945 (and beyond)

[article ID:428]

The following tables and graphs are based principally upon the entries in objects prm (the Museum's collections management database) as it was on 24 June 2003 and on a smaller version of that file for objects accessioned up to the end of 1945.

Total number of objects -

[article ID:429]

up to 1945 - 179,765 objects

up to 24.6.2003 - 274,624 objects

Total number of archaeological objects* -

Up to end 1945 - 79,547 objects

Up to 24.6.2003 - 120,024 objects

Total number of ethnographic objects * -

up to 1945 - 118,619

up to 24.6.2003 - 175,785 objects

If a steady rate of accession had happened, year on year, throughout the Museum's history, one would have assumed an annual accession rate of approximately 2,288 (274,624 divided by 120 years). In other words, by 1946 one would have expected 139,568 objects to have been collected if roughly the same number of objects were accessioned each year rather than the 179,765 objects that were actually accessioned.

Division of global collections up to 1945 into archaeological and ethnographic objects

[article ID:430]

Archaeology objects - 61,145

Ethnography objects - 100,278

Archaeology or Ethnography = 18,342 (that is, items which cannot be classified with certainty as either)

Decades of accessions for global objects:

[article ID:431]

1880s - 25,234 objects

1890s - 15,966 objects

1900s - 17,749 objects

1910s - 24,725 objects

1920s - 31,102 objects

1930s - 41,671 objects

1940 - 1945 - 23,029 objects

The peak in the 1880s is largely due to the founding collection [17,729 objects] and the transfer from the Ashmolean Museum [2,886 objects] and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History [OUMNH] [2,039 objects], other decades have more diverse sources.

Global objects by type of object

[article ID:432]

Table to show types of objects collected in descending order of number of objects:

Up to 1945

Up to 2003

Position

Type

No. of objects

Position

Type

No. of objects

1

Tool

68,459

1

Tool

97,442

2

Weapon

32,794

2

Ornament & Bead**

41,353

3

Ornament & Bead **

21,345

3

Weapon

41,056

4

Religion

15,125

4

Religion

24,477

5

Pottery

12,597

5

Pottery

19,698

6

Figure

9,571

6

Figure

16,321

7

Vessel

7,463

7

Clothing

12,543

8

Clothing

6,846

8

Vessel

11,941

9

Specimen

6,722

9

Specimen

10,620

10

Music

6,038

10

Trade

10,400

11

Textile

5,755

11

Textile

9,838

12

Toy & Game

5,645

12

Music

8,879

13

Food

4,907

13

Toy & Game

7,942

14

Death

4,843

14

Food

7,616

15

Box

4,645

15

Picture

7,187

16

Basketry

4,235

16

Box

7,063

17

Currency

3,995

17

Photograph

7,020

18

Narcotic

3,701

18

Writing

6,567

19

Writing

3,670

19

Basketry

6,247

20

Measurement

3,325

20

Currency

5,960

21

Animalia

3,181

21

Animalia

5,899

22

Technique

2,990

22

Death

5,872

23

Fire

2,946

23

Children

5,536

24

Status

2,941

24

Ceremonial

5,210

25

Geology

2,910

25

Narcotic

4,905

26

Trade

2,800

26

Measurement

4,757

27

Ceremonial

2,761

27

Status

4,561

28

Fishing

2,654

28

Plant

4,323

29

Photograph

2,552

29

Technique

4,069

30

Lighting

2,516

30

Fire

3,507

31

Plant

2,433

31

Model

3,412

32

Picture

2,369

32

Geology

3,330

33

Model

2,306

33

Lighting

3,257

34

Reproduction

2,274

34

Fishing

3,181

35

Toilet

2,017

35

Physical Anthrop

3,153

36

Hunting

1,786

36

Bag

2,951

37

Medicine

1,774

37

Toilet

2,891

38

Bag

1,744

38

Reproduction

2,757

39

Transport

1,563

39

Hunting

2,520

40

Children

1,473

40

Furniture Dwelling

2,372

41

Navigation

1,397

41

Transport

2,352

42

Agriculture

1,374

42

Medicine

2,269

43

Animal Gear

1,326

43

Animal Gear

2,223

44

Body Art

1,321

44

Agriculture

1,957

45

Physical Anthrop

1,303

45

Body Art

1,869

46

Cordage

1,244

46

Insignia

1,793

47

Dance

1,120

47

Cordage

1,780

48

Furniture Dwelling

1,061

48

Dance

1,737

49

Insignia

894

49

Navigation

1,661

50

Barkcloth

762

50

Lock

1,649

51

Dwelling

681

51

Dwelling

1,322

52

Metallurgy

548

52

Marriage

884

53

Mask

525

53

Barkcloth

866

54

Theatre

390

54

Mask

863

55

Lock

357

55

Metallurgy

725

56

Fan

334

56

Theatre

693

57

Marriage

293

57

Fan

626

58

Headhunting

290

58

Commemoration

537

59

Commemoration

285

59

Punishment & Torture

449

60

Punishment & Torture

253

60

Headhunting

329

61

Sport

238

61

Sport

289

62

Time

193

62

Time

264

63

Carving

134

63

Carving

153

64

Signal

43

64

Scientific Apparatus

103

65

Scientific Apparatus

27

65

Signal

64 

Commentary on table:

This information was compiled by calling up each category or type of object in the relevant database (objects prm [PRM collections management artefact database as on 24 June 2003] and the objects up to 1945 database created to compile all the statistics for the Relational Museum project) and then totaling the number of objects in each case. It is therefore counting all objects in this category. Note that any one object might be catalogued (and therefore appear in) more than one typology. A fishing spear for example would appear both under fishing and weapon.

Sadly (because it would have been nice to have a really striking difference which showed a dramatic shift in collecting policy or practise) the top 5 objects remain the same between 1945 and 2003 with tools (specifically stone tools) being, by a large margin in both cases, the object which has been collected the most. It is probable that the fact that the second category (for 1945), weapons, is so common also relates principally to large numbers of stone artefacts.

We would guess that most people who know about the collections and the Museum displays would expect ornaments to be a large proportion of the overall collections and as expected, they come in at either position 3 in 1945 or one higher (position 2) in 2003. The relative swap of positions between 1945 and 2003 of weapons and ornaments does not seem particularly significant to us given that the 2003 difference in numbers is so small [297 objects]. However significantly more ornaments than weapons were collected between 1945 and 2003 because the difference in totals in 1945 between the two types of objects was much greater (11,449), and this is probably significant. The reason for this shift is unknown.

Proportional decrease in numbers from 1945 to 2003

Musical instruments have become slightly less numerous proportionally than they were in 1945 (down from position 10 to position 12) and this might reflect Balfour's interest in musical instruments which was probably not replicated in the Museum after his death until Helene La Rue came into post. Although the positions have changed though there is still a significant amount of musical accessions and it was therefore still being actively collected.

More significant decreases proportionally from 1945 to 2003 are for objects related to Death (down from position 14 to 22), Narcotics (down from 18 to 25), Measurement (down from 20 to 26), Technique (from 22 to 29), Fire related items (from 23 to 30), Geology (25 to 32), Fishing (28 to 34), and Navigation (41 to 49). These decreases might simply relate to changes in academic / anthropological fashion or to chance.

Proportional increases from 1945 to 2003

Trade is one of the most significant increases (discussed below, from 26 to 10), Photography (proportional increase from position 29 to 17), Pictures (from 32 to 15), items associated with Children (from 40 to 23), Physical Anthropology (from 45 to 35), and Furniture Dwelling (from 48 to 40).

Items that are associated with trade rapidly increase between 1945 and 2003, from 2,800 objects to 10,400 (and from position 26 to position 10). It is probable that this relates to the fact that when cataloguing 'tourist items' they are catalogued using 'trade' as a class, and that there is a far greater percentage of items perceived as being tourist related between 1945 and 2003 than there was before (or perhaps, merely that there is an increase in the number of items identified as such).

Photography is interesting as from circa 1980 (Elizabeth Edwards joined the museum in 1977) photographic new accessions were not catalogued as part of the object collections (they were catalogued separately), one might therefore assume that the number of photographs accessioned as part of the object catalogues would decrease after 1945 but this is not so, we do not know the reason for this. It is unclear why the number of pictures should have increased disproportionally. Elizabeth Edwards suggested that this might be due to the fact that single collections of photographers were much larger post 1945 than they tended to be prior to 1945 and that this might explain the increase. She also explained that the accessioning of photographs was always very ad hoc and uncertain. There are photograph collections in the museum which came in very early but were not included in the accession books (for example, Damman) whereas other collections were. She suggested that it might be that collections which were purchased might have been handled separately from those which were considered part of teaching resources (like lecture notes) and this might have meant different accessioning procedures. Until she came accessioning of photographs was never handled in what would be considered now to be an appropriate way.

Physical anthropology is an interesting increase but one would have expected a significant decrease in proportion as general anthropological interest in such matters declined. We therefore decided to investigate this further. By finding out the exact specimens which had been acquired from 1945 to 2003 (not an easy matter) and reviewing each one we found that roughly half of the accessions post 1945 were items that had been found unentered and therefore could have been collected prior to 1945 in some or all instances. However the other half of the entries were new accessions of human remains (in some instances made into objects such as amulets).

Breakdown of global statistics between continents:

[article ID:433]

Africa - 47,114

Americas: 15,715

Asia (including SE Asia) - 40,232

Australia - 18,465

Europe - 41,898

Oceania - 17,088

Unknown - 1,091

[Note that there is a certain amount of double-counting between continents]

Dividing the global collections by decade and continent:

Continents / Decades

Archaeology

Ethnography

Archaeology or Ethnography

Totals[1]

Global

1880s

11,339

12,836

1,059

25,234

1890s

3,653

11,714

599

15,966

1900s

4,844

12,696

209

17,749

1910s

10,747

12,347

1,631

24,725

1920s

13,722

16,903

477

31,102

1930s

7,785

19,839

14,047

41,671

1940 - 1945

8,976

13,757

296

23,029

Africa

1880s

531

2,004

65

2,600

1890s

726

1,365

27

2,118

1900s

2,306

2,654

122

5,082

1910s

2,128

4,043

119

6,290

1920s

4,733

3,453

143

8,329

1930s

2,602

7,410

168

10,180

1940 - 1945

6,069

6,194

212

12,475

Americas

1880s

1,083

1,949

393

3,425

1890s

280

1,104

105

1,489

1900s

209

887

13

1,109

1910s

1,409

1382

53

2,844

1920s

2,214

1,292

57

3,563

1930s

966

1,045

79

2,090

1940 - 1945

480

713

9

1,202

Asia

1880s

186

4,942

194

5,322

1890s

639

5,684

176

6,499

1900s

143

5,139

12

5,294

1910s

908

3,075

20

4,003

1920s

443

8,359

93

8,895

1930s

2746

3,987

95

6,828

1940 - 1945

802

2,430

34

3,266

Australia

1880s

24

608

20

652

1890s

9

361

13

383

1900s

94

744

2

840

1910s

1,735

242

333

2,310

1920s

117

189

58

364

1930s

165

349

13,053

13,567

1940 - 1945

269

74

4

347

Europe

1880s

9,346

1,462

292

11,100

1890s

2,018

1,209

138

3,365

1900s

2,088

1,121

10

3,219

1910s

4,409

2,051

164

6,624

1920s

6,078

1,495

12

7,285

1930s

1,283

3,415

248

4,946

1940 - 1945

1,259

3,620

36

4,915

Oceania

1880s

26

2,066

52

2,144

1890s

14

2,190

75

2,279

1900s

9

2,307

46

2,362

1910s

118

1,701

937

2,756

1920s

59

2,389

113

2,561

1930s

24

3,671

404

4,099

1940 - 1945

22

854

1

877

Continents

Archaeology

Ethnography

Archaeology or Ethnography

Totals

Global

61,145

100,278

18,342

179,765

Africa

19,078

27,178

858

47,114

Americas

6,640

8,365

710

15,715

Asia

5,871

33,736

624

40,231

Australia

2,413

2,569

13,483

18,465

Europe

26,575

14,394

929

41,898

Oceania

272

15,188

1,628

17,088

'Relational Museum' project team

October 2003



[1] Note that there are around 400 entries which do not have a decade date as they were either removed from the museum post acquisition but before accession numbers were assigned or for a variety of other reasons, this means that you do NOT get the total number of objects for the continent if you add up each decade (or globally). For similar reasons adding up all the archaeological totals will not give you the overall archaeological figures given in the section on archaeological and ethnographic statistics (because there are entries which do not have specified continent etc).

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