Taking the Past into the Future

Early view of the Museum c1901
Early view of the Museum c1901
In July 2008 the Pitt Rivers Museum started the second phase of its development plan, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and other generous donors, to improve its public and education facilities.This entailed closing the displays to the public for ten months.
 On 1st May 2009 the Museum re-opened with a weekend of celebrations.

During the previous ten months, while the building work took place and the Museum was closed, a variety of important display-related tasks were accomplished including the installation of new pillars and cases, suspending the outrigger canoe from the roof, the removal, assessment, storage and redisplay of over 5000 objects, the installation of 8 new cases and displays, additional lighting and signs and a thorough cleaning throughout.

What changes have been made?

New view from the stepsThe 1960s exhibition gallery at the entrance to the Museum has been dismantled, restoring the original view through to the Museum’s spectacular totem pole on the far wall.

The original display cases, displaced to the Lower Gallery in the 1960s, have been returned to their place at the front of the Museum. The area on the Lower Gallery vacated by these cases provides a new space where family activities such as our monthly Pitt Stops and popular holiday programmes can take place. This development has been generously supported by the Clore Duffield Foundation.

At the Museum’s entrance a platform has been constructed allowing visitors to enter on the same level as the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. It accommodates a new shop and reception areas.

Clore-balconyFrom the platform, a wide set of stairs leads down into the displays, with a small lift to the side to make access easier for wheelchair users and visitors with pushchairs. The installation of an environmental control system beneath the entrance platform will help preserve the Museum’s collections for the future. This will greatly improve the air quality for visitors as well.

While the Museum’s historic displays and celebrated atmosphere have been carefully maintained, there are also eight additional displays, focusing on painting, decorative techniques, and recycled materials. They feature many previously unseen artefacts from the reserve collections exhibited in the Museum’s characteristic style.

How has this been funded?

Info point / shopThe Heritage Lottery Fund has made a generous award of £1 million towards the estimated £1.5 million costs of the project. Other private benefactors included the Clore Duffield Foundation and the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation’s Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund. I f you would like to help the Museum with future projects, please go to Support the museum.


Sir David Attenborough and Michael Palin share their thoughts on the project.


Reviews in national papers of the completed project can be seen on the following websites:

The Times
The Telegraph
The Sunday Times

Further information

The project's press release is available here. Should you need any further information on any aspect, please contact press@prm.ox.ac.uk