The Indian collections in the Pitt Rivers Museum comprise well over 15,000 items, covering most aspects of daily life, including a variety of bronzes, paintings and carvings relating to Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh communities. Ritual objects include numerous figures of deities, temple lamps, a large collection of rosaries, and masks. The jewellery collection includes some exceptionally fine pieces. Knuckle-dusters, 'tiger claws' and Sikh war-quoits feature in the startling display of weapons in the Upper Gallery. Also on view are tools, including the complete contents of a carpenter's workshop; agricultural and domestic equipment; toys, including dolls and kites; fans, playing cards, boat models and an internationally important collection of textiles, including a number of complete costumes.
The Museum also holds the world's most important collection of Naga artefacts from Assam, some 5,000 items covering virtually all aspects of Naga material culture. Most of these were collected by J Hutton and J Mills early in the twentieth century. Like most of the Indian collections, it is supported by a large photographic archive and several unique early field recordings on wax cylinders. The Museum made a major contribution to the Cambridge Experimental Videodisc Project on the Nagas.
The Museum's ethnographic collection of musical instruments is undoubtedly the best in the world. It now features the Indian collection given by Sir Sourinda Mohun Tagore alongside the examples collected by Henry Balfour, the first curator of the Museum. Since 1986 the Museum's Balfour Building has provided the space and setting for a programme of concerts, demonstrations, seminars and workshops.
Compiled by Julia Nicholson, Head of Collections Management (Documentation: Americas, Asia)