Introduction to the Pitt Rivers Museum Workshop, April 2015

Objects record the intentions of past generations. Our aim was to uncover and assess the evidence held in selected artifacts in the collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University. The PRM holds particularly rich collections and some of the earliest materials from the colonial era of Northern North America and from the periods that followed.

Our research team selected items that reveal the sequence of contacts and connections among Indigenous peoples, as well as between Indigenous and Métis peoples and European traders and settlers (c. 1700s-1800s) in regions of what is now Canada. We also selected several 20th century objects central to our project.

Most of these objects reflect métissage, the blending and mixing of cultures and peoples, revealed in the hybridity of things. This creative mixing typified many facets of material culture in Northern North America.

Clothing, in particular, was an active agent in cultural contact and change, deployed with great intentionality by Indigenous, Métis and European peoples in these northern regions. The agency of objects is revealed in the cut, stitching, decoration and signs of use.

The ‘Object Lives’ group encountered their first group of objects at the PRM in April 2015. Our aim was to uncover the features and dynamics of these objects and their contributions to material life. We engaged with each object collaboratively and discursively. The following pages reflect the Discovery Process; the blogs produced by team members suggest the stages of knowledge developed in this manner. 

Pitt Rivers Museum's Workshop Blog Post: 'Object Lives' Visit