Anthropology and the Living Museum

We have been running new anthropology workshops at the Rumble Museum to engage students in our collections and in our Living Museum project.

When students arrived at these workshops, there were six different objects on your tables and an “archaeological find sheet”. They all explored the objects and imagined they were discovering them as curious archaeologists, looking for and recording as much information as possible.

One item was a Japanese Temari ball, beautifully woven balls that were once made from fragments of old kimonos and have gradually become intricate art forms. Another was a Russian doll. One was a Daruma doll, a good luck charm where people can set goals and colour in the eyes of the doll when these goals were achieved, and another a replica Corinthian helmet.

These objects can all be found the Rumble Museum at Cheney’s collection, and students gave thoughtful answers to questions about how old they were and what information they gave us.

These items all told us about the culture of a civilisation: their daily lives and beliefs, as well as their relationships with their communities. The study of this sort of object is often called “anthropology”.

We are very fortunate to have one of the most beautiful and extensive anthropological collections in the UK in the Pitt Rivers Museum. Founded by Augustus Pitt Rivers, he donated his vast collection and it is laid out thematically, often with careful handwritten labels.

We looked at some of its most famous objects, such as the shrunken heads, as well as curious, less well-known items such as this silver bottle, which as the label showed, was thought to contain a witch!

Here at Cheney, the Rumble Museum is creating a “Living Museum” of objects loaned by students, staff and others to represent their lives, communities and homes. We asked you to choose three items that you felt represented you, and we are looking forward to you presenting these to us all in lessons.