Displays

VERVE: Need / Make / Use represents the third phase in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s renewal programme following the completion of the research centre in 2007 and the platform entrance and Clore Learning Balcony in 2009.
Museum technician installing a Naga headdress
Between 2012 and 2017 the project is creating new displays of more than 2000 artefacts – many of which have never before been on public display – from the Museum’s world-famous anthropological and archaeological collections, and improving the condition of many more. Displays linked by themes of design and craftsmanship will help visitors to understand the extraordinary ingenuity and human spirit represented within the collections – how people everywhere need, make and use ‘things’.

New Lighting

We have installed more than 100 metres of new flexible, energy- efficient LED lighting to make displays more visible but also add to the drama of the interior. Great care will be taken to ensure both the redisplay and lighting elements of the project respect the Museum’s historic character.

New Displays

The three phases of the project correspond to the three floors of the Museum:

‘Scare figure’ to keep away evil spirits, Nicobar Islands, India
The World is Watching: Performance and Ceremony (2012–14)


Phase 1 (Court) focuses on the often-unnoticed cases and spaces high up around the walls. Displays of masks and figurative sculpture from Asia, Oceania and Africa highlight the role of ceremony and performance in cultures past and present.

Materials, Tools and Techniques (2014–15) Bride’s shoe of reindeer skin and leather, Sweden

Phase 2 (Lower Gallery) explores craft-makers’ materials, tools and technologies from around the world, with a particular
focus on leather, metal, wood and stone. Working with contemporary craft practitioners brings specialist knowledge and fresh perspectives to the displays.

Model of prehistoric monument at Spinsters Rock, Devon, UK
Introducing the Museum: World Archaeology and General Pitt-Rivers (2015–17)


Phase 3 (Upper Gallery and Court) throws light on the layers of ideas that make the Museum what it is; exploring the Museum’s history, the influence of General Pitt-Rivers, through to our approach to the collections today. More than 20 metres of display space will showcase highlights from the Museum’s remarkable archeological and ethnographic collections, presenting the results of recent research and the cross-temporal and cross-cultural outcomes of human societies’ material engagements with the world around them.