Pitt Rivers Museum, east end of the Court (print)

Pitt Rivers Museum, east end of the Court (print)
Accession number: 
Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Interior view of the Pitt Rivers Museum, looking towards the east end of the Court, showing the Haida totem pole (‘Star House Pole’).

Photographer: Alfred Robinson
Date of photograph: 1901
Continent: Europe
Geographical area: Northern Europe
Country: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Region/Place: England; Oxfordshire; Oxford
Cultural group: Haida
Format: Black and white print (mounted on card)
Size: 207 x 154 mm; 311 x 247 mm (with mount)
Acquisition: Internal accession


Exhibition label: ‘To the right are three photographs of the totem pole taken soon after it was installed in the Court of the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1901. The exact date of the pole being raised in the Museum is not known, but an account in the Oxford Magazine mentions that on 22 November “there was a large gathering at the Museum to hear Dr. Tylor’s lecture on ‘Totems and Totemism’”; and it can be surmised that the post was already in its present position by this time. In his article published shortly afterwards in the journal Man, Tylor noted: “The post stood till last year in the remarkable row of such posts in front of the chiefs’ houses. It is carved from the trunk of the great British Columbian tree, hollowed at the back to be more readily raised into its place when finished. [...] Its present height, after its being sawn across near the ground and set on a base in the Pitt Rivers Museum, is a little over 40 feet, not far from the original height.”’ Source: ‘Star House Pole: Early Images of the Haida Totem Pole in the Pitt Rivers Museum’, exhibition curated by Philip Grover, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, 9 June to 28 September 2014.

Research notes: It has been established by Philip Grover that this photograph was taken in 1901, very shortly after the installation of the Haida totem pole (‘Star House Pole’) in the Pitt Rivers Museum. The exact date of the totem pole being put up in the Museum is not known, but one can deduce that it was in position by the time Professor Edward Burnett Tylor gave a lecture on ‘Totems and Totemism’ on 22 November 1901, as reported in the Oxford Magazine, 20 (27 November 1901), pp.108–109. This particular photograph was reproduced in Tylor’s article on the Haida totem pole, published shortly afterwards in the journal Man, and from this one can be certain that it was taken in 1901 specifically to record the totem pole in its new location: E. B. Tylor, ‘Note on the Haida Totem-Post Lately Erected in the Pitt Rivers Museum’, Man: A Monthly Record of Anthropological Science, 2 (1902), pp.1–3. A print of this photograph was very likely one of the two which were sent by Tylor to Robert Hanley Hall in recognition of his help in securing the pole for the Museum. Hall replied to Tylor in February 1902: ‘I am much pleased to receive the two handsome photographs of the Totem Pole as it now stands in the Museum, and I will prize them very much’: Pitt Rivers Museum Manuscript Collections, Tylor Papers, Box 12, Item 26 (H5): letter from R. H. Hall to E. B. Tylor, 15 February 1902.