Audrey Butt Colson making tape recordings with the Wayana people in 1963. Copyright Audrey Butt Colson
Exhibition dates: 15 October 2018 – 11 March 2019
“This exhibition focuses on six of the Pitt Rivers Museum’s most important female collectors and their fieldwork carried out between 1910 and the late 1950s. It is a unique opportunity to see objects and photographs resulting from their travels, as well as original archival material and film on display for the first time.” It has been curated by OATG member Julia Nicholson, with her colleagues Joanna Cole and Zena McGreevy.
These women were each extraordinary in their own way, and conducted research in many different areas. Barbara Freire-Marreco was the first woman to enrol on the Oxford Anthropology Diploma course in 1906. She did her fieldwork in New Mexico and Arizona at the start of the twentieth century. Makereti’s fieldwork was conducted in a different area of the globe – among a Maori community in New Zealand.
Beatrice Blackwood worked in New Guinea in 1936. During the Second World War she used her research to stress to her students that there was no such thing as an Aryan Race. Another researcher caught up in the war was Ursula Graham Bower who conducted her fieldwork in a Naga village. She formed a group of Naga scouts, who were very effective against the Japanese.
Elsie McDougall worked in Mexico and Guatemala in the 1930s and researched ikat techniques, collecting invaluable examples of weaving. Audrey Butt Colson worked in Guyana in the 1950s. She is still using her documentation from that period to help the indigenous communities fight their claim for their ancestral lands.
The objects on display include personal writing and collections of photographs as well as film – all giving us an insight into the achievements of these intrepid women, as well as the hardships they endured. On a personal level I loved the photo of the fierce -looking Papuan warriors playing with Beatrice Blackwood’s cat, Sally.
For more information visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford