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

Commentary and statistics about the people

who gave artefacts to the PRM up to 1945

Who are the people who gave artefacts to the PRM?

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The Pitt Rivers Museum databases have a field 'PRM Source', this is the field which has generated the information upon which this summary is based. It includes the names of individuals and institutions who donated, loaned and from whom artefacts were purchased since the museum was opened. Information about PRM sources is much more reliable than either the other owner or field collector fields, in part because presumably there has always been some professional (?and legal) need to identify the change of legal ownership that donation means and therefore both names and addresses of PRM sources have been kept since the Museum was founded. The only entries for which this is not true are the items which were found unentered in the collections at some point after they were received which may have little or no information attached to them. Of course for these statistics and for the tables we have only been reviewing those sources which gave prior to 1946.

Number of objects associated with named or identified possible field collectors:

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As can be seen from the following tables, a good percentage of the overall present-day collections were accessioned by 1946. As we discussed in the global statistics report 179,825 objects were received by 1946 (and 274,624 up to 24.6.03). In other words over 65 per cent of the present day Pitt Rivers Museum's collections had been accessioned by 1946.

[This graph was produced by the DCF Cataloguing Team during the DCF first project (ie on different total figures) , however it shows that there was a significant decrease in the number of new accessions post 1950]

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[1]). 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 179,825 objects that were actually accessioned.

All of these 179,825 objects were donated, purchased or loaned by an individual or institution listed below.

Number of PRM sources whose objects were accessioned by the PRM before 1946

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A total of 2,193 individuals gave or lent objects before 1946. Unfortunately it is impossible to compare this to a figure up to 2003 without doing the same exercise we have just completed but for all entries on objects prm.

Number of PRM sources about whom some biographical information is known:

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Number of entries that do not have biographical information of any kind: 1,138

Number of entries that have biographical info: 922

Number of people with possible biographical information: 133

It is apparent from this that a surprising amount of biographical data is available for this fairly random selection of people. Of course many of the PRM sources are people of note (famous as nineteenth century explorers for example) and others are likely to have formal biographical information retained about them because they served in the Armed Forces, but others are deeply obscure and it is a testament to the usefulness of the web as a research tool now that so much information about so many people was obtainable with relatively little problem.

This biographical information will be extremely useful for museum researchers in the future (whether from inside the institution or within) and is already proving very useful for other Oxford University museums with whom we have shared the data and who have donations from many of the same collectors.

Which PRM sources gave the most objects given to the Pitt Rivers Museum?

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The following are the top 20 PRM sources with the largest number of objects accessioned from them in the PRM (given in descending order). Names in red are the named field collectors in the ESRC project:

Donors by size of collections up to 1945


Name of field collector

Size of collection


Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers



Henry Balfour



Estate of Ernest Westlake or Aubrey Westlake



Beatrice Blackwood



Anthony John Arkell



Edward Burnett Tylor / Anna Tylor



Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey



Charles Gabriel Seligman & Brenda Seligman



Archibald Colquhoun Bell



John Henry Hutton / per P. Bertram Hutton



Richard Carnac Temple



James Philip Mills



Estella Louisa Michaela Canziani



James A. Swan



Robert Powley Wild



Basil Hall Chamberlain



Louis Colville Gray Clarke



Thomas Nelson Annandale / and Herbert Christopher Robinson



Francis Howe Seymour Knowles



William Scoresby Routledge


Not surprisingly Pitt Rivers was the source of the greatest number of objects up to 1945, however because most of his collection was a secondary collection amassed from dealers, auction houses and friends and not via field collection he does not appear so highly in the top 20 of field collectors. Henry Balfour was not far behind however as a source of objects for the Museum.

A large number of the top 20 PRM sources are donors of large numbers of small objects or stone tools (one thinks of: Pitt Rivers, Westlake, Arkell, Leakey. Griffith, Seligman, Bell, British School of Archaeology (Jerusalem) and Swan). Ernest Westlake's collection of stone tools is enormous and so it is no surprise that he figures very strongly in both tables.

There are several institutions in the Top 20 of PRM Sources whereas obviously there are not in the field collectors, it may be surprising that the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum features so highly especially when it is realised that this must be an underestimate in overall up to 2003 terms as so much of the Wellcome collections have not yet been properly catalogued.

Beatrice Blackwood's overall collections donated to the Museum are not quite as significant as her field collections in terms of numbers. It is not surprising that Arkell features so highly as a PRM source as there are such large numbers of small objects (principally beads) in his collection.

Jeffreys does not figure in the list of top PRM sources because his objects mostly came to us via the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum. The reason John V. Cook with a large field collection does not figure in the Top 20 PRM source is that objects came in via several sources, the most important Westlake. Alexander Montgomerie Bell's objects came in via Archibald Colquhoun Bell. Most of Garrod's objects came in via the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem.

[1] Of course there have not been 120 full years since 1884 (not until 1 January 2004 that can that be possible and indeed we have no idea of when in 1884 the museum 'opened', it is unlikely to have been on the 1 January so it was always going to be a rough count to give indications rather than reliable data!

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The financial support of this project by the ESRC is gratefully acknowledged.