Stories in Stone: an annotated history and guide to the collections and papers of Ernest Westlake (1855-1922)

Rebe Taylor, with Michael Jones and Gavan McCarthy


These papers relate to three large stone collections formed by English amateur scientist Ernest Westlake from about 1870 to 1920: 13,033 Tasmanian Aboriginal stone implements, an estimated 10,000 English paleaoliths, eoliths and fossils and more than 4,000 French eoliths.

The story of Ernest Westlake and the collections he formed is brought to life in the 2017 book by Rebe Taylor, Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity.

Ernest Westlake had formal training in geology (University College London 1873-1875) but, as these papers reveal, his wide-reaching research interests included psychical phenomena, cultural evolution and anthropology. This archive represents much of Westlake's life's work, including some papers relating to the project for which he is most famous: the establishment of the alternative Boy Scouts movement, The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, in 1916.

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Hand with StoneWEST00335, Series 7

Notebook 2

Tasmanian Collection:

The most detailed historical annotation provided in this Guide relates to Westlake's Tasmanian collection of 13,033 Tasmanian Aboriginal stone implements collected mostly between 1908-1910 and held in the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. These papers, housed in that museum's Manuscript Collections, include interviews with over 95 Tasmanians, many Aboriginal, about Aboriginal language, history and culture. They also include correspondence, photographs of stone tools, contemporary travel brochures, maps and notes made by Westlake from Tasmanian Government records and private Tasmanian archival collections. The Guide also includes materials from the Henry Balfour Papers in the Pitt Rivers Museum and from the Museum's Related Documents Files that pertain directly to Westlake's Tasmanian Collection. View Timeline of the Records >>>


English and French Collections:

These papers relate to the estimated 10,000 mostly English palaeoliths, eoliths and fossils held in the Oxford Natural History Museum since 1999 and to the estimated 4000 (or more) French eoliths originally acquired by the Oxford Natural History Museum in 1923 and returned to Ernest Westlake's son, Aubrey Westlake, in 1980. Most of these papers are held in the Oxford Natural History Museum, but a significant number are held in the Pitt Rivers Museum (Series 12, and part of Series 2 of this Guide). These records include Ernest Westlake's copious notes and notebooks (some with diagrams and sketches) and his published papers related to his geological research and collecting of fossils and stone artefacts from the artesian wells, quarries and rail and road cuttings mostly in Hampshire and the cliffs of southern England and parts of coastal France from the 1870s to early twentieth century, and to his study and collecting of eoliths in Aurillac, in the Cantal region of France from 1904-1906. These papers also include the notes, manuscripts, publications and correspondence of those scholars who variously studied Ernest Westlake's English and French Collections from the 1920s to 1980s: W. J. Sollas, J. Reid Moir, Donald Baden-Powell and Justin B. Delair. View Timeline of the Records >>>


Spiritual and Psychical Phenomena:

Ernest Westlake was a member of the London-based Society for Psychical Research (SPR) from the mid-1880s. These papers, which are housed in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, form most of Series 17 in this Guide. They include correspondence with physicist William Crookes detailing how to assemble an apparatus to record the movements of spiritual phenomenon, and his research notes regarding dream premonitions carried out on behalf of Eleanor Balfour Sigdwick, wife of Henry Sigdwick, founder of the SPR. With the exception of a few items, most of the records related to Ernest Westlake's research into water divining and his work with the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry are not included in this Guide.

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Published by the The University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre and the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, August 2010
Listed by Rebe Taylor, with Michael Jones and Gavan McCarthy
HTML edition
Updated 14 February 2017

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