Last week I decided to fulfil a long-held desire, and went to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.
This is an amazing place, an anthropologist collection of artefacts from around the world which the museum is at pains to point out, was mainly bartered for or donated.
No rampant thievery here, thank you very much.
Stepping inside the dark and gloomy museum is quite overwhelming as there is so much stuff in display cabinet after display cabinet.
It’s the perfect setting for a book, be it a story of magic, crime, thriller or horror.
The protagonist can utilise any one of hundreds of items to save themselves in a complex yet brilliant manner.
Similarly, a villain would have a wonderful time concocting evil plots.
There’s stuff for weaving, for making lanterns, for body decoration, as well as masks, swords, guns, and armour made from fish skin.
It’s collected from across the globe and neatly serves to illustrate how similar our cultures are, how humans evolved in the same ways the world over. That is, with brilliance and cunning.
Other items of particular note were the shrunken heads. Skin was taken from an enemy’s head and heated for a few hours until it shrunk (not boiled as that makes hair fall out), and then stuffed with small pebbles and other items to recreate the shape of the head.
Then, marvellously, the eyes and mouth were sewn shut so that the evil spirits would remain within the head, and not get out to harm the shrinker.
I was quite taken with these heads, thinking that if my husband pops off the mortal coil before me I could shrink him down and use his head as a key fob.
Plus, I could then take his skull, polish it up, and it’d be a handy bowl for peanuts or similar.
While I found much mirth and joy in this, he was less taken with the plan.
For anyone studying art, or anthropology, or ways of preserving their loved ones as handy household items, the Pitt Rivers museum is a treasure trove of delight, and even better, it’s free to get in.
I can’t recommend it enough for a superb day out.