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21 June 2013
On a recent visit to Oxford I took in some of the collections of the excellent and free museums there. The Pitt-Rivers ethnographic museum has long been recommended as an interesting visit but the History of Science museum also has its attractions.
The City of Dreaming Spires is certainly not without its attractions for those interested in survival and primitive living skills.
This is certainly an old school museum with a mix of modern information cards and hand written ones that could be any number of years old. The cases are on the dark side and not everything is always easy to see. The information desk can supply torches and magnifying glasses but I didn't find it that bad.
The highlights for many bushcrafters would be in the case of different fire-making equipment categorised with great detail applied to the technique used. That's not the only case worth seeing though as they had some Sami and Inuit needle cases as well as a seal gut parka and many other items for food processing and hunting. In general, the artefacts showed a tremendous attention to detail and a master level of workmanship
It's always hard with museum collections to tell if this represents the true picture - they display the best items, and the less attractive and more utilitarian are also perhaps more likely to be discarded or worn out. The cases do contain more than enough inspiration for any number of projects though.
An added boon is that the museum is housed alongside the museum of natural history. Although much of this was being refurbished, there were still some interesting cases on show and it reinforces the idea that a bushcrafter is in many ways a true natural scientist.
History of Science
A smaller museum and much less heralded the History of Science Museum's collection is focussed on scientific instruments. In the first room there were a huge number of fine navigational tools and sundials. For anyone who has an interest in solar or celestial navigation it is a real eye opener. I have a long standing interest in quadrants but I'd no idea that they were quite so small.
I thoroughly recommend both of these museums and I often find inspiration in ancient history, prehistory and ethnography displays in various places.
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