Pitt Rivers Museum tells gypsy and traveller stories

Jonathan Knott, 09.11.2015
Museums build links with local communities to help preserve culture
Museums in Oxford have been working with local gypsy and traveller communities to help preserve and spread knowledge of their culture, delegates at the Museums Association annual conference heard.

The Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of Oxford are part of an outreach initiative that has been in conversation with four local gypsy and traveller groups. About a year ago the Pitt Rivers Museum held a six-week temporary display of objects including blankets, clothing, cups, plates, a model wagon and a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Nicola Bird, the community outreach officer at Oxford University Museums Partnership, said that one of the aims of the project was to “build bridges” with communities that can be wary of outsiders. The project emphasised the continued involvement of the groups, not only over the inclusion of objects but also issues like accurate labelling. Bird stressed the need for a flexible approach, saying “the way we work needs to diversify as well.”

Kit Gaffey, a traveller who is working with the project, said it was important to preserve the traditional cultures of travellers, gypsies, Roma and fairground people, adding “it’s nice to let other people see your history”.