Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Canziani and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Chris Wingfield
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

1961.1.090 Vinaigrette donated by Canziani [closed]

1961.1.090 Vinaigrette donated by Canziani [closed]

1961.1.090 Vinaigrette donated by Canziani [open]

1961.1.090 Vinaigrette donated by Canziani [open]

Canziani suggested in her 1939 book Round Palace Green (3) that:

The collection of peasant costumes, jewellery, metal-work, pottery, and woodwork which I collected for my books led to the first beginnings of an ethnological museum in England; all these objects are now in Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum, and also at Aston Hall, where they are being arranged.

She suggested that this was an instance of what she called 'guidance and not chance.' Canziani, herself a Quaker, was invited by friends to speak on Art and Religion at a meeting Birmingham. She accepted believing she would be speaking to a factory audience, and 'got together all kinds of objects to illustrate magic and superstition, and also photographs of primitive gods and goddesses.'

Arriving in Birmingham she states she met representatives from the Museum and Art Gallery. S.C. Kaines Smith, Keeper of the museum between 1927 and 1941, evidently asked Canziani whether she would donate her collection to the museum to start a new department. She suggests that 'Altogether two vans of twenty tons, and one van of ten tons of material and objects went to Birmingham' and are many references throughout Round Palace Green to objects 'now in Birmingham Museum.

The ethnological museum did not come to pass. According to a published history of Birmingham Museum (4), Kaines Smith proposed the establishment of a new museum of history as part of the re-development of Birmingham Civic centre in 1939, but the second world war meant that this was never established. Nevertheless, Canziani's collections in Birmingham still make up a significant part of the collections.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery's current database catalogue records over 2,000 objects donated by Canziani, mostly during the 1930s, with some additions in the 1960s (5). This includes over 400 drawings and 200 watercolours as well as 27 paintings and 33 prints, many by Canziani herself. There are also over 1,400 objects collected by Canziani mainly from England, France and Italy, with smaller collections from the Netherlands and Balearic islands as well as from China, Irag, Morocco and Turkey. In addition there is a large un-catalogued manuscript collection which includes much of the Canziani family correspondence.


(3) p.207 
(4) p. 65 in Davies, Stuart  (1985) By the Gains of Industry Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery 1885 - 1985. Birmingham City Council.
(5) Many thanks to Rachel Cockett, Documentation Manager at Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery for providing this information.


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