Wednesday, 24 September 2014


In the Olden Days, when we baby boomers were children with no tablets or iPhones to transport us to faraway places and times long gone, many of us regarded a trip to a museum as an exciting treat. Mr N's local museum even had interactive lithophanes (light goes on, light goes off) and mine had been given our local doctor's stuffed polar bear (brought back from the Arctic by his intrepid father, Dr Reginald Koettlitz), after it proved to be too dangerously frightening for the faint-hearted in his waiting room, where it had held a lamp aloft.

The Koettlitz Bear

Given our love of all things old and curious (including each other), it has taken us ages to get round to visiting the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Now that we are very nearly antiquities ourselves, we have at last achieved our ambition.
First we entered the Oxford Museum of Natural History, all light and airy with gothic arches under a glass roof. Here all manner of interesting specimens are carefully displayed in a way that excites the imagination, the intellect and the eye.

The natural history collection is watched over by our gentle hero, Charles Darwin, whose presence reminded us that we were approaching the entrance to the Pitt Rivers collection and its altogether more disturbing exhibits, which reveal the Origin of Our Own Species.
Black framed vitrines, crammed with the clamorous works of man.
We did not photograph the varied weaponry on display but...
... this ingenious and slightly gruesome garment is one of our favourite exhibits. A waterproof anorak made from seals' intestines. Inspired by our visit, I resolved to create my own museum when we got home and have made a start with a mini Cabinet of Curiosities.
I've promised to keep things small. It won't take over the house...maybe.


  1. My all time favourite museum - I love the way they give children torches so that they can shine them into the cabinets and see all of the tiny treasures.
    My granddaughter has just graduated from Keble across the road from Pitt Rivers where she did archaeology and anthropology - she is spending part of her year off, before starting her next degree, getting experience at Pitt Rivers.

  2. What a wonderful start to adult life - I hope she has much happiness & success. The key is to be interested in everything and to never stop learning, which I'm sure she knows.

  3. One of my favourite places to be, when I lived in Oxford ....magical!

  4. Our Natural History museum here in Cambridge is closed at present for refurbishment and I'm hoping that it still looks like a museum when the work is finished. I'm struck by the similarity of many of the exhibits in the two university museums - one can imagine that there might have been some rivalry and a determination not to be outdone by "the other lot".

  5. The Oxford Natural History Museum is a hidden gem and its light and airy feel is perfect for the material on show. The Pitt Rivers Museum is very different and your description reminded me that as a child I visited the smaller Pitt Rivers collection at Farnham in Dorset (no longer there). I have never forgotten the shrunken heads!

  6. Splendid pictures , Nilly...I adore the natural history museum...Need to go again...We took the children when small...I was totally , totally amazed with the section on Darwin...Ooh and the native American Red Indians too !!
    Thank you for kindest words...I actually loved your comment over on mine...Your a wise , wise lady, Nilly !!
    Hugs Maria x

  7. What a splendid place the Pitt Rivers Museum looks to be...and despite the phones and tablets (I assume you don't mean pills..) I'm delighted to say that my children are very fond of museums and do rather miss them - there seem to be fewer here than there were in England. Great photos and a rather nice start to the Nilly Hall Museum of Curiousities..Axxx

  8. I feel as if I was visiting with you Nilly. Your images are so wonderful, some very interesting exhibits, especially some of the skeletons. Slightly scared by some of the tribal artefacts, I have a bit of a thing about masks! Love the little cabinet.