THE OTHER WITHIN : An anthropology of Englishness

Main project information page

Third six-monthly progress report - October 2007

Changes in staffing of the projectDr Hélène La Rue

In July 2007 one of this project's two directors, Dr Hélène La Rue, died very unexpectedly. This is a great loss not only to the project, and to the Pitt Rivers Museum as a whole, but also to each of the project team members personally. Hélène's sense of humour, her great knowledge of many arcane subjects and her lively enquiring interest in all matters English were a vital part of the project. She had already contributed a great deal to the team's discussions, begun working with the local lace-making community and continued her on-going research and interest in English musical instruments, music-making and dance. Her contributions will be sorely missed.

black-edged envelope
Black-edged envelopes used by Sir
Arthur Evans after the death of his wife.
Donated by Kate and Joseph Grafton
Milne 1944.9.129
This six months have been a period of continued research and consolidation. David Harris returned from sabbatical leave and began preparing the project's website including databases of all English objects, and all the individuals associated with the objects, and the statistics, all prepared by Alison Petch. It is hoped that a good deal of the website will be available to all web visitors from early December 2007.


Alison Petch has continued research into the individuals and institutions who have contributed to the Museum's English collections. She has also given a paper on the Pitt Rivers Museum and Industrialization to the Friday seminar series in the Museum, she hopes that a version of this paper will be published soon. She has completed an object biography for the website on death-related artefacts and hopes that at least one further paper will result from this research. As well as producing more object biographies Alison will concentrate on the photographic and Oxfordshire collections over the coming months. She had already been looking at the individuals who donated Oxfordshire objects in more detail.

Chris Wingfield has continued researching into folklore, religion and magic especially Tylor's Somerset collections. He has prepared an object biography on the witches ladder for the website which he presented at a Friday seminar at the Pitt Rivers Museum. He will next look at the English stone tool collections. He is finalising plans for a meeting at the Museum of English Rural Life in December of many researchers working in this field.

Both Chris and Alison worked for a couple of days a week for over a month helping to pack the stone tool collections currently located on one site of the Museum to be moved into a new store. This work enabled them to examine a good proportion of the English stone tool collections and suggested several new research topics.

Peter Riviere - has been carrying out detailed research on the members of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1900 and looking at the separation of folklore and anthropology at the start of the twentieth century. He was also lookign at the setting up of MERL and the proposed museum of English life and traditions (which had never been established).

Mike Heaney will prepare an object biography on the morris objects held by the Museum.

Katy Barrett is a historian student at Exeter College, and has volunteered with the project between August and September looking at weighting the individuals associated with the English collections so that the most important can be identified. She has also been preparing an object biography for the website and working on the stone tool packing programme. It is hoped that Katy can find time from her postgraduate studies to continue to help the project but her help over the summer is gratefully received by the project team.

Bid to the AHRC to fund a series of workshops

Unfortunately a bid by the project team, together with the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading was unsuccessful. The project team is continuing to collaborate with MERL.

Object Biographies

It had been hoped that this was an area of the project team's endeavours that would benefit most from Hélène La Rue's wide knowledge of English collections. It has been agreed that as well as other members of the project team, and associated researchers, being asked to prepare object biographies, all the staff at the Museum would also be asked if they wished to contribute. There has been an amazing response and it is hoped that by February 2008 seventeen colleagues will have drafted their contributions, all of which will be available after that date on the Other Within website. Go to the Other Within website.