Pitt Rivers Museum - Ruskin

Pitt Rivers Museum and Ruskin College collaboration

Ruskin students
Ruskin student Denise Pakeman with Polynesian artist

George Nuku and Rosanna Raymond
Ruskin College is based in Oxford and specializes in providing educational opportunities for adults with few or no qualifications. It aims to recruit and develop those many adults who want a 'second chance' in education and offers university-standard courses in the informal setting of a small residential college. For further information about Ruskin College please visit http://www.ruskin.ac.uk

In establishing this arrangement in 2010, Ruskin College and the Pitt Rivers Museum are seeking to build a strong, positive and enduring relationship between their two organizations and to provide a framework to consolidate and advance the collaboration. As part of the agreement, access to voluntary work placements at Pitt Rivers Museum will be made available to students of Ruskin College. In return, the College will help further invigorate the Museum's work through widening its potential audiences and providing established channels to additional sources of opinion and approaches to education. 

The primary purpose of the collaboration is to work together to enhance learning opportunities. The key aims are to:

  • Open up and share each other’s facilities and/or expertise in appropriate ways
  • Broaden the sectors of the community with which each organization establishes links
  • Widen access to educational, historical and anthropological resources and networks

Ruskin College and the Pitt Rivers Museum 2011-12

Three students took part in the 2011-12 collaboration. History student Celia Cole focussed on visitor research, conducting surveys in the galleries. Fellow history student Adele O'Shea, who had spent some years in Bahrain, decided to focus on palm leaf material from that part of the world:


"I seized the opportunity to participate in the new partnership between Ruskin College and the Pitt Rivers Museum. Having visited the Museum many times it struck me that there was a lack of material from the Arabian Peninsula, probably because I am particularly interested in that part of the world. Therefore, I decided my project would focus upon the economic and cultural use of the palm tree in the Arabian Peninsula. I wanted to show the historical importance of the palm tree, as it was the main source of raw material in the region and the entire tree is used in one way or another. On a visit to Bahrain in August 2011, I collected some samples of products made out of date palm, some of which still have a cultural significance to the inhabitants of the region. These included baskets, dates, fans, brushes, a mat, leaf pulp paper, a bottle of distilled palm tree pollen water, plus a collection of digital photos of the trees themselves and how they are processed.
" Adele O'Shea.

Short film about volunteer student Navigator Ndhlovu and how he used the Ruskin-PRM project to explore his Zimbabwean heritage:

Ruskin College and the Pitt Rivers Museum 2010-11

Short film exploring volunteer students' expectations and experiences of the inaugural year of the collaboration between the Pitt Rivers Museum and Ruskin College, Oxford:

List of resources to be added to:
moko tattoos and carvings

Exploring culture and identity through moko tattoos and wooden carvings

An article describing an encounter with Polynesian objects, people and places.

(pdf download)A Turkana Apron

A Turkana apron from Kenya

Exploring how a single object in the Museum can be a gateway to stories about a collector and another culture's lifestyle and customs. (pdf download)