One of Britain’s most curiously quirky museums is Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum. Indeed to even enter the museum, you have to pass through the Oxford University Museum of Natural History – a museum within a museum!

The mysterious and magical qualities of the museum’s collection inspired Philip Pullman for aspects of His Dark Materials trilogy. See below for a video of when the Pitt Rivers Museum was plunged into darkness and bathed in the unique sounds of music from the Central African Republic, and visitors were given torches to explore!

We at the Oxford Scholastica Academy have compiled our list of the top 5 most intriguing exhibits at the Pitt Rivers Museum:

  • The largest object is a 40 foot totem pole. It has two bears (one eating a frog) and a raven with a human with between its wings carved at the top of it.
  • A glass flask said to contain a witch – so a witch in a bottle! The bottle has a tiny piece of card attached to it which reads, “And they do say there be a witch in it, and if you let un out, there’ll be a peck o’ trouble.” Beware!
  • Shrunken heads of the Upper Amazon. The museum’s shrunken heads are held in a case entitled Treatment of Dead Enemies, were examples of how Amazon tribesmen took their enemies’ heads as trophies.
  • Always look up in this museum – above head height on the first floor runs a series of hundreds of smooth paddles and a dozen more canoes brought back by an explorer in the 1830s.
  • A cloak made entirely from feathers from Hawaii – enough said!

Photo by Maureen Lunn (CC BY 2.0)


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