News

Journalists should contact press@prm.ox.ac.uk for further details and images concerning the Museum, its collections, research projects, events and activities. Download our press releases.

Benin Bronzes: Statement from Oxford University's Gardens, Libraries and Museums 29 March 2021

Oxford University's Gardens, Libraries and Museums hold approximately 105 objects taken during the 1897 looting of Benin City; they are currently under the stewardship of the Pitt Rivers Museum.

The Pitt Rivers Museum has been working with Nigerian stakeholders, including representatives of the Royal Court and the Legacy Restoration Trust, to identify best ways forward regarding the care and return of these objects from the Court currently in the museums' care. Delegates from the Royal Court have visited Pitt Rivers (in 2017 and again in 2018), and representatives from the Pitt Rivers visited Nigeria in 2019 as part of the Benin Dialogue Group. This work is part of the Museum's continuous programme to research the composition and provenance of the collections and identify collections that were taken as part of military violence or looting, or otherwise contentious circumstances and engage in conversations with external partners about the future care of these objects.

Since 2017 the Museum has been part of the Benin Dialogue Group and subsequently the Digital Benin Project, a multi-lateral collaborative working group, bringing together museum directors and delegates from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, with representatives of the Edo State Government, the Royal Court of Benin and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria. Member museums are seeking to address the issues of return and restitution within their own governance structures. There are different laws that apply in different countries to the field of culture and the return of cultural objects. Conversation are developing at a differing pace in the various countries for initiating permanent returns.

We acknowledge the profound loss the 1897 looting of Benin City caused and, alongside our partners of the Benin Dialogue Group, we aim to work with stakeholders in Nigeria to be part of a process of redress.

Any request for the return of these artefacts would fall within article 2.2 of Oxford University's Procedures for claims for the return of Cultural Objects.

More information at https://prm.web.ox.ac.uk/committed-to-change.

Oxford University study leads cutting-edge scientific and historic analysis of elephant tusks found in 500-year old shipwreck 17 December 2020

An international team, including researchers from Oxford University, has discovered the origin of the largest cargo of African ivory found from the oldest shipwreck in southern Africa. This unique story that links shipwrecks, precious gold and silver cargo, diamond mining and elephants also highlights the extensive depletion of the West African forest elephant due to the ivory trade and the need for conservation of this majestic animal. Further information.

New Collecting Awards help curators to expand and diversify museums’ collections 3 December 2020

On 3 December 2020 Art Fund announced £300,000 in funding to help grow and diversify museum collections, awarded to rising curators through Art Fund’s New Collecting Awards. Five UK curators, including Marenka Thompson-Odlum at the Pitt Rivers Museum, have been announced as the latest winners of the New Collecting Awards and will receive funding to pursue projects that build and diversify their museums’ holdings. These awards give curators 100% funding to research and buy works that grow collections in new directions or deepen existing ones. At Pitt Rivers, the funding will be used to collect contemporary works by indigenous artists and address the colonial history of collections. Further information.

Pitt Rivers Museum reopening reveals critical changes to displays as part of decolonisation process 14 September 2020

When the Pitt Rivers Museum reopens its doors to the public on 22 September 2020, visitors will see changes to some of the Museum's more contentious displays. Following an internal Review of Displays and Programming from an Ethical Perspective, all displays containing human remains have now been removed, including the popular 'shrunken heads' and new displays have been installed. These new displays give an insight into how the Museum formed its collections and explain how some of the historic labels have obscured deeper understanding of other cultures, reinforcing racism and stereotypes. Further information.

Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of Natural History to reopen on 22 September 8 September 2020

The Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of Natural History are delighted to announce that they will both reopen to the public on Tuesday 22 September. Dr Laura Van Broekhoven, Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum, says: “I am delighted we can now open our doors again and welcome our much-missed audiences. I look forward to seeing the Museum come alive while visitors wander around enthused, inspired and surprised by the Pitt Rivers’ unique space that holds a world within.” Further information.

Major Funding Award from the Arts Council Designated Development Fund, 17 December 2019

The Pitt Rivers Museum is delighted to announce that it has been awarded £90,000 from the Arts Council Designated Development Fund, drawn from the National Lottery. This funding will enable a project to undertake conservation, research, photography and digitisation of the Museum's internationally significant textile and clothing collections. These are unique and have importance for makers, elders and researchers from the communities which they originated from, as well as the wider public. As part of this work, the Museum will also train staff in digital photography and work with communities in the UK and overseas, to ensure users are at the heart of the research. https://bit.ly/35vYHzw

Participants Sought for TORCH-Pitt Rivers Museum Knowledge Exchange Project about BAME and Queer Networks in Oxford

Professor Michèle Mendelssohn is running a TORCH-Pitt Rivers Museum Knowledge Exchange Project about BAME and queer networks in Oxford from the late 19th century to today. This is a trans-historical project that weaves together stories from Oxford's past and present using objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum. Her research aims to address the University's intersectional and intellectual history from a local, social and global perspective. She will be running a series of workshops in the coming months involving members of the Oxford community, city, students, staff and alumni.

Oxford University Museums win Collections Trust Award 2019 for project working with forced migrants, 16 September 2019

An award-winning project at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the History of Science Museum has received further recognition for its work creating volunteering opportunities for forced migrants. Multaka-Oxford was named winner of the 2019 Collections Trust Award at a ceremony on Thursday 12 September. The annual award recognises the often unsung achievements of those who manage museum collections. Further information.

Professor Michèle Mendelssohn awarded TORCH-Pitt Rivers Museum KE Fellowship, 4 September 2019

Professor Michèle Mendelssohn has been awarded the TORCH-Pitt Rivers Museum Knowledge Exchange Fellowship. Dr Chris Morton, Head of Research at Pitt Rivers Museum, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Professor Michèle Mendelssohn as a TORCH-Pitt Rivers Museum Knowledge Exchange Fellow this autumn to work in conjunction with our current Beyond the Binary project colleagues on the fascinating and important project, 'Queer students of colour at Oxford from 1900 to the present day’. We look forward to working with her and to sharing the outputs of her project with our various audiences.” Further information.

Professor Clare Harris is elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy, 19 July 2019

The Pitt Rivers Museum is delighted to announce that Professor Clare Harris has been elected to the Fellowship of the British Academy in recognition of her outstanding research on visual/material culture of the Himalayas, Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora. In awarding the title of Fellow, the British Academy celebrates the achievements of scholars who have attained distinction in one or more fields in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Professor Harris's work engages with anthropology, art history and critical museology. In her analyses of art, photography, museums, collections histories, colonial and post-colonial constructions of knowledge, and the politics of representation, she has pioneered new approaches to the study of Tibet, past and present. Professor Harris is also internationally recognised for her collaborations with Tibetan artists, innovative exhibitions, digital projects and award-winning publications. Further information.

Pitt Rivers Museum wins University Public Engagement with Research Award

The Pitt Rivers Museum has won a Building Capacity Award in the 2019 University of Oxford Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards. These awards celebrate excellence in public engagement across the University. The announcement was made at an awards ceremony hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson at Keble College, Oxford, on 10 July 2019. Press Release

Tsherin Sherpa is 'Artist in Residence' at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

The internationally acclaimed Tibetan/Nepalese artist, Tsherin Sherpa, has been visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum in June and July 2019 with funding from an Origins and Futures grant to conduct research on the Museum's collections from Tibet and the Himalayas. This will lead to an installation and exhibition inspired by the spaces, histories and objects of the Pitt Rivers, that will be on display in the Museum in 2022. Tsherin's residency is hosted by Clare Harris, Professor of Visual Anthropology and Curator for Asian Collections at the Pitt Rivers.

Tsherin Sherpa is a contemporary artist based between Nepal and California, USA. Having trained as a painter with his father and other distinguished artists of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, he has made his name by reinventing the iconography and stylistic vocabulary of that heritage to produce dramatic compositions that engage with global audiences. For more information on the artist see https://bit.ly/327K04b.

Multaka-Oxford Volunteer Team wins Museums + Heritage Award

On 15 May 2019 the winners of the 17th Annual Museums + Heritage Awards were announced. The Multaka-Oxford Volunteer Team (Pitt Rivers Museum & History of Science Museum) won Volunteer Team of the Year. Talking about the Multaka-Oxford Volunteer Team, Diane lees CBE, Director General of the Imperial War Museums and Chair of the 2019 judging panel, said: "The genuine mutual benefit to both organisation and volunteer is clear to see with this winning team. They have shared their experience, insight and expertise to collaborate and to reach new audiences, helping the museums to be more relevant and accessible to their communities." Press Release

Pitt Rivers Museum shortlisted for £100,000 Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019

On 25 April 2019 it was announced that the Pitt Rivers Museum has been selected as one of five finalists for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019, regarded as the largest and most prestigious museum prize in the world. The annual award celebrates innovation and exceptional achievement in museums and galleries across the UK. The other four museums shortlisted are HMS Caroline, Belfast; Nottingham Contemporary; St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff; and V&A Dundee. Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019 Press Release.

Museum Curators receive £200,000 to boost research through Headley Fellowships with Art Fund

On 7 March 2019 it was announced that Professor Dan Hicks, Curator of Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, is one of the first recipients of funding from the Headley Fellowships with Art Fund. This is a new funding programme to give curators the opportunity to further develop specialist knowledge relating to the collections in their care. Professor Hicks will be researching the untold colonial histories in the Pitt Rivers collections. Project dates: April 2019 - March 2020. Further information.

Pitt Rivers Museum wins DCMS/Wolfson funding for Engaging the Senses Project
14 Jan 2019
It was announced on 14 January 2019 that the Pitt Rivers Museum had been awarded £70,500 in the latest round of DCMS/Wolfson funding awards, aimed at helping museums increase access to their collections. This award will fund Engaging the Senses: Activating the Pitt Rivers Museum’s Photograph and Sound Collections through digital audio-visual technology. This project will improve visitors’ engagement and introduce elements of digital exploration and learning in the galleries for a variety of audiences. A digital interactive table top, listening station and interactive screen will display unique photographs and sound collections, improving the visitor experience for visitors with disabilities, local communities and the wider public. Further information.

Hélène La Rue Scholarship in Music

St Cross College invites applications for this scholarship to begin studying at the University of Oxford in the academic year 2019–20 for a doctoral research degree in Music. Preference may be given to a research topic related to the musical collections at the University, including those at the Pitt Rivers Museum. This scholarship is tenable at St Cross College only. Further information.

Multaka-Oxford Project starts at Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of History of Science

Multaka-Oxford is a project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund until September 2019. It focuses on two collections at the museums: Islamic astronomical instruments at the History of Science Museum, and a recent acquisition of textiles from the Middle East at the Pitt Rivers. The project aims to involve displaced people in the daily work of the museums through the creation of inclusive volunteer opportunities, empowering them to deliver all aspects of the project – from collections research to public engagement. Click here for further information.

Pitt Rivers Museum wins Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund award

The Pitt Rivers Museum and the History of Science Museum have been successful in securing a major grant in support of a programme which will enable those affected by forced migration to play an important role through curation and public engagement with relevant collections. The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund has awarded £120,000 as part of its drive to fund collections development projects for social impact. Further information.

Hélène La Rue Scholarship in Music

St Cross College is inviting applications for this scholarship to begin studying at the University of Oxford in the academic year 2018–19 for a postgraduate research degree in Music. Preference may be given to a research topic related to the musical collections at the University, including those at the Pitt Rivers Museum. The scholarship commemorates Hélène La Rue, who was Lecturer/Curator of Music at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Bate Collection of Music until her death in 2006. Further information.

Repatriation of Māori Ancestral Remains

On Wednesday 17 May 2017, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford handed over to representatives of the Karanga Repatriation Programme of Te Papa Tongarewa (The National Museum of New Zealand) the Māori ancestral remains previously cared for at the University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum. The remains comprise seven toi moko (‘ancestral mummified heads’), and three kōiwi tangata (parts of a skull). The handover ceremony was attended by Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO, KStJ, the High Commissioner of New Zealand to the United Kingdom, colleagues from Te Papa Tongarewa, and members of Ngāti Rānana (the London Māori Club). Also in attendance were senior officers and members of the University; representatives from the British Museum, the Natural History Museum (London), and the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Archaeology; and members of the Museum’s staff. More information.

Forest + Found Visiting Maker Residency

We are pleased to announce Forest + Found as our 2017 VERVE Visiting Maker Residency duo. Forest + Found artists Abigail Booth and Max Bainbridge are a fine art collaboration focusing on material and process. As VERVE Artists in Residence, Max and Abi's work will be inspired by the archaeology redisplays, looking at the changing forms and functions of objects from prehistory to modern day.

An LGBTQ+ Trail of the University of Oxford's Collections

For LGBT History Month 2017, the University has launched a new project: Out in Oxford. Volunteers and curators have worked together to create a trail of objects throughout the University’s gardens, libraries and museums. The trail celebrates the diversity of Oxford's collections, and uncovers queer stories associated with these objects.

Diversifying the University Voice – IT Innovation Award

The Pitt Rivers Museum, in partnership with TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities), has been awarded £60,000 from the University of Oxford IT Innovation Challenges Fund to create two mobile apps to share Oxford’s diverse voices, stories, research and collections to a wider public. Further information.

Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

The Oxford University Museums AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) commenced in 2016 and offers up to three fully-funded doctoral studentships per year. Oxford University's CDP studentship programme is led by Dan Hicks (Pitt Rivers Museum). The scheme operates across the four University Museums – the Ashmolean, the History of Science Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Professor Laura Peers wins Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement with Research 2016

The Pitt Rivers Museum is delighted to announce that Professor Laura Peers has won a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement with Research. These awards, inaugurated in early 2016 and announced on 1 July 2016, recognise and reward those who undertake high-quality public engagement with research and have contributed to building capacity in this area. Professor Peers won an award in the Project category with the outstanding Great Box project, a partnership project with the Haida Gwaii Museum and artists Jaalen Edenshaw and Gwaii Edenshaw. Further information about the award 

On the Move

The Pitt Rivers Museum is home to more than 300,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects from around the world. It is known for its dense displays and has more than 30,000 objects on show in the galleries. However, the majority of the collection is stored in off-site facilities. Over the next two years, the collections housed at the largest of these facilities will be moving closer to the Museum.

Appointment of new Director of Pitt Rivers Museum

Dr Laura Van Broekhoven, Head of the Curatorial Department and Curator of Middle and South America at the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (encompassing the Tropenmuseum, Volkenkunde and Afrika Museum) in the Netherlands and Assistant Professor of Archaeology at Leiden University, has been appointed as the new Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum. She will take up the directorship on 1 March 2016. Press release.

Collaborative Doctoral Studentships

Oxford University Museums are offering up to three fully-funded doctoral studentships per year, starting in October 2016 through the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) scheme. The Collaborative Doctoral Studentships will involve research that helps us to develop new perspectives on our collections and to share knowledge more widely and effectively with a range of audiences, while also training a new generation of scholars working between the academic and heritage sectors. 

DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund Award

The Pitt Rivers Museum is delighted to have been awarded nearly £40,000 from DCMS/Wolfson Foundation's Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund.

The Award will enable the Museum to commission major new cases in which to display some of its outstanding collection of model artefacts, ranging from temples to tipis, from planes to palanquins and from canoes to igloos. The new cases, which will be in period style, will be arranged to form a fresh space in the heart of the displays, where staff can introduce all the collections to the burgeoning number of visitors. Further information.

Oxford Cultural Leaders

Oxford University Museums, in partnership with colleagues from the Saïd Business School and supported by Arts Council England, are delighted to announce the launch of an innovative new executive leadership programme for the cultural sector. 

DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund award

The Pitt Rivers Museum is delighted to have been awarded £64,845 from DCMS/Wolfson Foundation’s Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund. The award will enable the purchase of a major new display case in which to exhibit one of the Museum’s most important collections – that brought back from Captain Cook’s voyages to the South Seas in the 18th century. 

Pitt Rivers Museum curator's book wins major US prize – January 2014

The Pitt Rivers Museum is delighted to announce that Dr Clare Harris's book The Museum on the Roof of the World: Art, Politics, and the Representation of Tibet has been awarded the 2013 E. Gene Smith Inner Asia Book Prize by the Association for Asian Studies. Press release.

Explore the Oxford University Museums app

Discover featured objects from the University of Oxford's four world-renowned museums and keep up to date with the latest exhibitions and events. The Ashmolean Museum, the History of Science Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum each hold distinct and fascinating collections to explore. Find out more about the App and download.

Pitt Rivers Museum wins £1m Heritage Lottery Funding

We are delighted to announce that we have received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £1,049,400 towards our £1.6m project VERVE (Visitors, Engagement, Renewal, Visibility, Enrichment).

‘Excavating Pitt-Rivers’ Project

The Victorian archaeologist General Pitt-Rivers is world-famous for his development of modern scientific archaeology, but the earliest archaeological collections that he made have never been studied. The Pitt Rivers Museum, where these artefacts are held, has been awarded £76,654 by Arts Council England’s Designation Development Fund to document this important early material. 

Small Blessings – Amulets at the Pitt Rivers website launched August 2012

Explore these curious objects from Adrien de Mortillet's amulet collection and discover the intriguing stories behind them. See the website here.

Composer residency

We are delighted to announce that Sound and Music has awarded Nathaniel Robin Mann a joint residency with Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford Contemporary Music (OCM) through their ‘Embedded’ programme.

Renaissance Major Grant from Arts Council England – 2012 to 2015

The Pitt Rivers Museum, as part of an Oxford University and Oxfordshire County Museums consortium, has been awarded a Renaissance ‘Major Grant’ from Arts Council England (ACE).