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The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, United Kingdom, contains some of the most esoteric, eclectic, and down right wierd items known to man.

The museum was founded in 1884, when Lt. General Pitt Rivers, an influential anthropologist, donated his collection to the University of Oxford. His two conditions were that a museum was built to house it and that someone should be appointed to lecture in anthropology.

The museum itself is located at the back of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and is often missed by visitors. From the original collection of 18,000 objects, there are now more in the region of 500,000; including shrunken heads, voodoo dolls, ritual masks, musical instruments, a totem pole, and the creepiest donation box known to man.

Exhibits are arranged by type. This is to help demonstrate how different cultures have solved the same problems. Exhibits include:

  • Pacific island objects, including a magnificent Tahitian mourner's costume, collected during Captain Cook's Second Voyage in 1773-74
  • Hawaiian feather cloaks in brilliant shades of red and yellow
  • a wide range of handwoven textiles and looms
  • a collection of ceremonial brasses and ivories from the Kingdom of Benin
  • a fine group of early masks worn by actors in Japanese Noh dramas
  • more masks from Africa, Melanesia and North America
  • sculpture from all over the world in wood, pottery, metal and stone
  • boats, ranging from full-sized sailing craft to model canoes
  • baskets in all possible shapes and sizes
  • pottery from Africa and the Americas, including many pre-Columbian pieces
  • costumes from North America including Inuit fur parkas, Plains skin shirts decorated with porcupine quills, painted coats from the Northeastern Woodlands and a range of decorated moccasins
  • magic objects including amulets and charms
  • jewellery and body decoration
  • locks and keys
  • tools and weapons
  • musical instruments

The display cases appear crowded, as a large percentage of the collection is on display. This is because the museum is, first and foremost, a teaching resource. Indeed, visitors are urged to open drawers and poke about, as there are many hidden treasures - such as the whistle made from a frog.

Opening hours are:

  • Monday - Saturday 12 - 4.30pm
  • Sunday 2 - 4.30pm

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