Monday, 26 March 2012

Pitt Rivers Museum - Oxford.

As mentioned in my last blog, I have been massively slack about writing up my dates of the year. Really I wanted to write them up for my own memory, not for anyone else but perhaps you might read them and decide to visit so it is kind-of for you too. :D

I had visited Pitt Rivers a few times in the past and always loved it. It is a amazing place quite literally bursting at the seams with everything you can possibly imagine, from shrunken heads to totem poles, costumes to boats, it is amazing.

If you have ever been to Oxford then you will know it is already a pretty amazing place, the architecture is stunning, there are people of all sorts darting under you, in front of you, whooshing past you on bikes! Cameras everywhere you turn and interesting shops,, it is just an experience. So when you (as we did) drive up to Pitt Rivers Museum the first thing you notice are the ENORMOUS tree stumps (when I say stumps I mean what we could call a whole tree) that have been brought from all over the world and put on display outside the museum. If this isn’t enough to get you leaping from your car/running towards the museum then there is the building itself, it’s beautiful. L and I had to find a car parking space though and what with Oxford being pretty anti-car, it wasn’t too easy. We eventually went round the block a few times before sucking it up and taking it on the chin that we would have to just park a few streets over from the museum by some lovely old houses for the (frankly revolting) sum of £4 an hour!!! Eurrgh.  We decided we could probably do the whole place in two hours (not possible) and after paying the ticket machine we legged it over the road to look at the incredible trees.

The first thing you notice about the trees is that they are SO much bigger than they look once you are up close, the second  thing is you can’t help but want to take a squillion pictures of them. They are majestic and proud looking, even though they have been lopped down and laid down on the floor like giant wooden corpses. Each tree died naturally and has been put to good use as an educational piece outside the museum. I can’t imagine a single child who wouldn’t want to clamber all over them!

After spending half an hour of our precious two hour time limit on staring and reading about each tree we climbed the beautiful old worn steps to the front entrance of the museum and walked inside. The museum is free and we are lucky it is as some museums see fit to charge an arm and a leg to go in and in my opinion, this museum is so much better than some I have been to and paid for.

As you walk in you are greeted by dinosaurs,

skeletons of hundreds of animals, stuffed birds and animals, creatures  you didn’t even know lived and wonderful displays of every kind. The smell is that of an old room and the stunning Victorian air vents waft hot air up constantly making you feel warm and at home. I think we went on a very busy day as the other times I have been it was much quieter and you could spend a good while reading and photographing, not this time, we were carried around in the constant traffic of children, adults and the odd artist with sketch pad on board.
Now I could go into detail about each floor and each and every thing but you will be here for weeks reading so I shall just focus on a few more things..

Pitt Rivers Museum is famous for its shrunken heads. Mr Pitt Rivers was an explorer and gathered many, MANY things on his travels, possibly the most famous is the shrunken heads. They are just incredible, the mind boggles at how these tiny men were once the same as you or I . Now there has been some talk of the heads being returned to their homeland as it is disrespectful for them to be on display and I can totally understand why they ought to be..but they still remain. And so I TRIED to take what could be my last chance to photograph them before they are removed from the museum, well, all I can say is that I should have been wearing protective gear. It would seem that everyone in the museum made a beeline to the heads and you couldn’t get in to take a peek for love nor money. I managed to grab a tiny photo but it is so dark in there it isn’t very good. Saldy not a good enough pic for you to enjoy. This is REASON 1 for you to go.

The other things of note are the incredible war masks and armour, it seems so weird to me that these masks and suits were once worn by men to scare one another in battle. It is almost impossible to imagine how they could’ve not laughed at the masks and how they were strong enough to carry such a weight as a battle suit. Incredible. Here is a rather rubbish photo of *some* of the museum, it is HUGE and very dark so you really can get lost looking around everything. It could easily take a day. If you have kids the museum provides a checklist game for them to play so they don't get bored looking around.
There were other wonderful things such as Inuit clothing made from seal skin and embroidered with flowers and patterns so, SO stunning and fragile.

I saw a few sloths, they are my favourite animals, I just love how happy they are.

There was a lovely beaver with a smiley smiley face..
Birds of every colour, even the normal birds like a pigeon looked fancy..

Oh, just so many lovely things. This isn’t really a very good review/reminder..
So, apart from being told off by the security guard for sneakily munching some Millie’s cookies on the way round, and the STINKING toilets which I eventually refused to use and lastly the parking issue, I have to say that Pitt Rivers is a great place to visit.

If you like to draw, enjoy looking at things your mind can’t possibly imagine or just love architecture then this is the place for you. It’s free. Don’t drive, you’ll be annoyed. Take the train and enjoy the countryside views, pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful trees outside and make a day of it. Lastly, don’t wear wool..those lovely old Victorian heating grates will make you very hot and worn out.

I hope you do go, it’s lovely. xxx

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