• 5.0 star rating
    2/2/2012

    #455 Walking into the Natural History part of the museum, I was less than impressed. So, I decided to skip it at first and headed straight to the back for the Pitt Rivers Museum.

    All I could think for a good 30 seconds was "OH, MY". Shocked at what my eyes laid upon, I felt like I had just walked onto a movie set! The place was cramped with so many different artifacts, I had a difficult time keeping my eyes focused instead of wandering around all over the place. Indeed, because I was so overwhelmed, I had no idea where to start. Fortunately, if you walk down the stairs and turn immediately to your left, there's an unassuming start point with a description about the museum, as well as a brief history. Thank goodness for that or I would have been utterly confused for another 5-10 minutes.

    I recommend reading the blurbs because it puts everything in the museum into context. For example, the reason why they have eschewed typing out item descriptions is because they aim to preserve not only the artifacts themselves, but also the time period in which they were discovered and collected. So, expect to spend an inordinate amount of time squinting and straining your eyes to read description tags. Though, they do have the occasional large placard in each case that will describe the overall collection within the cabinet. Also, things are cluttered and packed into cabinets because they all share some common theme in terms of use or decoration. So, it's not messy because they don't know how to organize things. Instead, it's messy because they want to put together as many pieces for you to compare as possible.

    Other than that, the place feels like someone's chaotic attic. Everywhere you turn, there are dozens and dozens of things to look at. My favorites on the ground floor were the lace-making display, the sewing instruments, the shrunken heads, and the model homes. However, the 1st floor, by far, held my most favorite collection, featured under "Medicine and Surgery". If you're into gory surgical TV shows, you should definitely swing by section L on the 1st floor. They have instruments that are used for prying open the skull and all sorts of dentistry goodies.

    The 2nd floor was also pretty fascinating, but I was at my mental capacity for the fine artifacts. So, I did a quick round and headed back out to the Natural History Museum. But, since I'm going to be in Oxford for so long, I definitely plan on coming back in the next several weeks to absorb some more culture.

  • 5.0 star rating
    16/5/2011

    Free! Free! Free!

    This is an interesting museum of artifacts and collections, ranging from bones to bugs to instruments to crack the betel nut.  It seems a little disorganized in one of the rooms.  Items seem to have been mushed into one room, collected from different cultures, having no rhyme or reason.

    I did like the upstairs exhibit which featured insects especially the cockroaches.  Really gross but very intriguing to look at.

    Not a must-see but worth checking out if you have time.

  • 5.0 star rating
    26/7/2009

    Pitt Rivers.  What a name.  It's the Victorian equivalent of James Bond.  Or Dirk Diggler.  Probably both all rolled up into one.

    This guy was, to put it a mildly, a dude.  I mean, check out this picture:

    history.prm.ox.ac.uk/gra…

    I bet that well waxed moustache and those magnificent sideburns went down well at the debutante ball.  Of course he probably didn't have time to chase women given he spent most of his time plundering the world's primitive societies for their most valuable and sacred items.  He was Britain at its best, a pirate in all but name!

    This is an amazing museum, although it's more of a large room at the back of the natural history museum.  This guy got around (the world, not the debutante ball).  I saw totem poles, eskimo outfits, and Egyptian jewellery, plus lots more.  On a lot of the items you can still see his original notes inventorying its provenance.  Cool.

    Oh yeah, and don't forget that the drawers can be opened and contain ten times more stuff than the glass enclosures.

    And it's free!

  • 5.0 star rating
    10/8/2013

    This museum is amazing. It's free to enter (donation box is available for those who want to support the museum)! Definitely worth checking out if time permits in Oxford.

  • 5.0 star rating
    5/6/2011

    Local friends told me to check this place out. They're so right, cool place.

    Victorian iron tracery supporting glass and more. And more as you look around and start to take in an astounding collection of objects from the world over, and from a time far before this one.

    I've spent hours here, and will again.
    Enjoy!

  • 5.0 star rating
    25/1/2009

    The Pitt Rivers Museum is both hilarious and fascinating. General Rivers agreed to donate all the random artifacts he had collected during his life on the condition that the museum organize everything his way, even if that way didn't really make sense. The result is a room packed randomly with items ranging from the breath-taking to the bizarre, from totem poles and canoes to shrunken heads and witches in bottles, all labeled by Rivers's own hand (I'm pretty sure.) You could wander around this room for hours and still not really see all that's inside.

    A definite must-see site for anyone visiting Oxford.

    • Qype User Templa…
    • Stevenage, Hertfordshire
    • 380 friends
    • 498 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    16/5/2008

    This is a real museum as museums should be. Feels Victorian.
    Last time I went it was raining and the floor was covered in buckets for the leaks.
    Dark and musty it is surely the inspiration for the Weird Museum kids books.
    Love the little native mannequin that jiggles and leaps around when you press the foot pedal. Full of quirks and unusual stuff.
    LOVE IT!

  • 5.0 star rating
    29/11/2007
    First to Review

    I agree with everything that Flick has already said except for this museum being best appreciated by adults. It is a wonderful place and children love it. During the holidays and on Sundays the museum organises special events and museum trails especially for children. You can take part in craft activities inspired by the exhibits or borrow backpacks and torches and take part in an educational treasure trail around the museum. The museum is kept dark to protect the exhibits and this adds to the atmosphere but the torches aren't to provide you with light but to act as pointers. They do let you see a bit more detail but they also make it easy for children to point out what they are looking at. Instead of saying what is that? and pointing at a display full of hundreds of ear rings, they can shine the beam on the one they are talking about. The torches are such a good idea.

    This winter the museum is going to become an even better place to take older children as the film Golden Compass adapted from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials  trilogy is released. The first books are partly based in an alternative Oxford and the Pitt Rivers museum features in at least one of the books. (Ask a child - they'll be able to remember which one).

    Along with all the exhibits of toys and charms, jewelery and weapons children love the collecting box. When you put money in the slot the small statues of famous anthropologists all bend forward to see how much money you've put in and sometimes their eyes flash red and a bell sounds. Take lots of small change and you can keep a small child amused for ages.

    The recently built extension means there are now such luxuries as toilets and lifts as well as small lecture rooms. The web site has also been updated since I last looked at it. I've just spent far too long playing with it. I was trying to find out the story behind the collection box and instead I found that you can now get a 360 degree pictures of the museum! And, of course, the web site has lots of information about the collections and the special events.

    The museum is attached to the Natuaral History Musuem. So if you have one child keen on dinosaurs and one that likes arts and crafts then you can kill two birds with one stone (as long as the bird isn't one of the swifts that nest each year in the tower - and are appear on a TV near the entrance of the Natural History Museum)

    • Qype User EllieC…
    • London
    • 58 friends
    • 117 reviews
    4.0 star rating
    26/9/2008

    Definately a must when in Oxford. It is extremely excentric, and has a wonderful jumble of all sorts of things from the ordinary to the down right wierdmost notably the much commented on shruken heads!
    Its a great place to take kids to, and is a great day out.

  • 5.0 star rating
    19/2/2010

    Its funny how everyone mentions the shrunken heads - what does that say about us all? But they are kind of cool in a macabre way and not to be missed.

    Hard to add much to the great reviews already posted. But I definitely agree this is worth a visit. The British Museum it isn't, but a crammed, cramped room and balconies based around a single Victorian collection.

    True to its anthropological focus, cabinets are arranged around human themes (body decoration, way of death, music...) and will span centuries and continents making for fascinating juxtapositions of human artifacts.

    You enter through the Natural History Museum (also worth a visit) with the obligatory dinosaur and elephants skeletons. But it is the Pitt Rivers I love the most.

  • 5.0 star rating
    9/10/2011

    Great place, is it not?  We all agree, so I shall skip over a review and mention an anecdote of my last visit there with my American fiance.

    A few teenagers wander in, with their very teenage way and attire.  One of their number is stopped and told that he cannot come in as he has a drink with him.
    "AAhhhhhhh!!!", taunts his friend whilst pointing at him; "You are going to so miss out on the learning!!!!".

    How very Oxford.  My fiance was rather amused and so was I.

    • Qype User sazzbe…
    • London
    • 24 friends
    • 69 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    22/8/2008

    The Pitt Rivers museum is a wonderful one! with huge dinosaur bones! they have a great collection of all sorts of artifacts focusing mostly on science.
    The shrunken heads that were once there still scare me! they do alot of work with Oxford University too.
    its free which is always wonderful and they sell amazing crystals in the shop!

    • Qype User Bluebe…
    • Abingdon, Oxfordshire
    • 9 friends
    • 39 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    5/12/2007

    I agree with previous reviews - the Pitt Rivers is a real hidden gem, an absolute treasure trove and every time you go you can find something new to marvel at. It's so atmospheric in the gloom - my kids have all loved it.

    Highlights for us have to be of course the shrunken heads (I read a while back that they were considering removing them - this would be a tragedy!) Another favourite is the Witch's Bottle which carries an ancient curse and apparently contains the spirit of a witch so no-one has dared open it!

    My kids love to open all the drawers full of weird stuff in the ancient cabinets. I'm always surprised by how quiet it is in there - perhaps I've just been lucky, it certainly adds to the spooky feeling of the place.

    • Qype User kas7…
    • Dublin, Republic of Ireland
    • 10 friends
    • 149 reviews
    4.0 star rating
    25/3/2008

    Very eccentric and fun i think it is one of few museums that children will enjoy as much as the adults do. The best thing is that even if it is not to your liking, it is free!This museum perhaps should not be called a museum because it is very different to most that i have been in. More jumbled and messy then most museums it feels slightly more adventurous!!
    For the children and non faint of heart there are shrunken heads! yes - shrunken heads. If that does not make you visit here then i do not know what will! It kind of reminds me of the old travelling circus' - but without the cruelty. I wont go too in depth as i agree with all the reviews above so i will keep this short and sweet. I will say however that this is perhaps my number one tourist attraction for Oxford, and i have done quite a lot of sight seeing!

    • Qype User atparr…
    • Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
    • 5 friends
    • 84 reviews
    4.0 star rating
    17/10/2008

    Free entry into here makes it a place not too miss out on, even if you go only to see the shrunken heads. They are not too gross, even for little ones, who I dont think realise what they are.
    The whole exhibition is very intrigueing, being the collection of the famous explorer.

  • 4.0 star rating
    14/4/2013

    What a wonderfully strange place! I very much enjoyed spending time here while studying. There's so much there, you can notice something new every time.

  • 4.0 star rating
    18/11/2008

    A wonderful rainy-day place to go with children of all ages, including the grown-up ones. Shrunken heads, weapons, toys, things to guess the function of - the Pitt-Rivers has something for everyone, especially those fascinated by 'disgusting' things. Cabinets and drawers to open add to the air of secrecy and discovery surrounding some of the items.

    The loos are excellent, and a very welcome addition.

  • 5.0 star rating
    28/9/2010
    Listed in Culture Vultures

    Wonderful eclectic collection, from shrunken heads to dinosaur bones.
    Jam packed with curiosities that will entertain kids and adults.
    I imagine this is what a museum was like in the Victorian era. A refreshing change from the newer  interactive 'push button' museums, which can seem rather ubiquitous. A child could still have a sense of discovery here, I know I did.

    Free to enter.

    Gets busy in school hols.

    Where else can you see a Dodo?

  • 5.0 star rating
    6/7/2009

    If it wasn't in Oxford I would visit the Pitt Rivers a whole lot more. It's a marvel of Victorian desire for knowledge. The personal collection of Lt Pitt Rivers is contained in this purpose built Victorian iron work structure. The amazingly varied and, if you tried to understand it confusing array of anthropological and architectural gems creates a fascinating journey through the mind of Lt Rivers. These men were wealthy, driven and perhaps a little mad but that makes their collections all the more interesting to us now. Superb and Free.

    • Qype User flower…
    • Oxford
    • 24 friends
    • 58 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    21/5/2008

    This place is a must if you are staying in Oxford.

    • Qype User snakek…
    • London
    • 13 friends
    • 69 reviews
    4.0 star rating
    27/11/2008

    Wow, this is an unusual museum that is packed full of anthropological artifacts and exhibits. It is maybe not suitable for very small children, as some of the artifacts such as the shrunken heads are not for the faint hearted. Older children will relish the more macabre displays. As always in Oxford parking difficult so if you are not local, Park and Ride is the best option.

    • Qype User alissa…
    • Oxford
    • 5 friends
    • 17 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    18/6/2008

    The Pitt Rivers is a fantastic place to visit. I've spent hours gazing into the many displays. Most people don't realise there are drawers underneath the display cabinets that can be opened to see more stuff. The PR is closing from July 2008 until Spring 2009 for a major refurbishment. The Museum of Natural History, which is in the front of the museum, will remain open.

    • Qype User traymc…
    • Oxford
    • 62 friends
    • 56 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    1/10/2008

    This is one of Oxfords hidden treasures. Situated behind the Natural History Museum, as soon as you enter you can feel the atmosphere with a looming totem pole and cabinets full of curiosities. My nine year old son loves the little money collecting thing with the pigmes 'dancing' when you put in money and I love the shrunken heads! There is an abundance of excitement here and its all free!!

    • Qype User mood…
    • Glasgow
    • 20 friends
    • 236 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    1/10/2008

    A MUST visit and very easy to miss, the Pitt Rivers is situated in the rear of the University Natural History Museum on Parks Road, opposite Keble college. Although it is quite cramped, there are an amazing number of fascinating artefacts. Take it slow, as it is very easy to miss things; I've been three times and discovered something new on each occasion! Watch out for the shrunken heads!

    • Qype User elliel…
    • Oxford
    • 13 friends
    • 56 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    17/11/2008

    Great place to take your children to introduce them to museums, there is a whelm of items here and your children will be talking about it all the way home. Fascinating place for adults to go to to take them back to their childhood as many people would have visited here in the past.

    • Qype User Jonath…
    • Reading
    • 6 friends
    • 10 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    27/1/2011

    A gem hidden behind the Oxford University Museum of Natural Museum. A museum of a museum, as collected by General Pitt-Rivers on his travels. Objects are categorized by use rather than location. Find the shrunken heads and learn the different between a "real" one and a "fake" one (still an actual head, but done for Victorian tourists).

  • 4.0 star rating
    14/11/2011

    Not knowing what to expect, I made my way to the Pitt Rivers Museum on my daytrip to Oxford. I thought all was a lost cause when I didn't see any signs to this museum, but towards the end, I ran across the arrow pointing and gladly followed and was pleasantly surprised by what I came across. It's a bit out of the way, from city centre, I walked and kept thinking, "I must be going the wrong way..." but alas, I found it! Inside the FREE museum, there were dinosaur bones, stuffed animals you can touch that died of natural causes, rocks from outer space, this old tree from london, or somewhere in the UK that is on the 2nd floor. It's quite small so you can finish in about 30 minutes. It's quite a hands-on museum and you can get really close to objects from the past! I really loved this one rock, it looked so metallic...amazing..you can touch it too. Do give this place a visit, at least for a bit!

    • Qype User Flic…
    • Oxford
    • 60 friends
    • 485 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    20/11/2007

    The Pitt Rivers museum is one of my favourite places in Oxford. You could spend a week in there and not see everything. It's hidden at the back of the Natural History museum, which adds a bit of excitement and adventure in trying to find it. It's also free, so you can spend however long you like in there and return time and time again. Unlike the colourful, interactive and all too often dumbed-down museums of today's world, this is dark, jumbled and very exciting. It's a great place to bring children, becuase they can explore things at their own speed, in whatever order they want, giving them the freedom to learn. The museum staff provide torches for young adventurers. However, this musem is probably best appreciated by adults. It's not in any particular order, although items are vaguely categorised, but there is so much to see, it is literally a treasure trove of funky artefacts. There are fabrics hanging up, display stands everywhere, things on the ceiling, a totem poleyou have to see it to believe it. It could be criticised for the rather brief and vague descriptions of some of the items, but this just allows for further use of the imagination, and most things are very well explained. It's loosely an anthropological museum, so has clothing, tools and toys from a huge array of different cultures. My favourite bits are the magic charms, the musical instruments, and, of course, the infamous shrunken heads. Go and loose yourself for a day in there - it really is one of Oxford's greatest hidden gems.

    • Qype User pinksn…
    • Dublin, Republic of Ireland
    • 2 friends
    • 150 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    3/10/2008

    this place is great for a family day out or a good place for a first date, the good thing is that its free to go in and you also get some great educational info. Dinosaurs are fab and you little boys wil love it.

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