Somewhere behind the scenes at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, Marenka Thompson-Odlum is rummaging through a medium-sized plastic box. The box contains labels from display cases that have recently been removed; this is where they come to die.
Plucking out a large sign reading “PRIMITIVE DWELLINGS”, Thompson-Odlum weighs it thoughtfully in her hand. “I should think of something better to do with them, but I can’t really figure out what,” she says. Jumbled alongside is another inscribed “PRIMITIVE MEDICINES”. Finally, she pulls out the one she’d been searching for: “MODERN SAVAGE”. She grimaces. “That was up more recently than you’d think,” she says.
For the past three years, this has been Thompson-Odlum’s life. As a research assistant and “change curator” at the Pitt Rivers, now 34, she has the job of sifting through fragments of the museum’s past, trying to make them more palatable to the…
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