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pursuits of history, or to those of art, without an extensive collection of casts from those fine antiques, which it does not possess, and has no prospect of acquiring. And no great museum of natural history ought to rest satisfied without constantly approximating, as nearly as is possible, to the possession of all the various species of animals, which the progress of discovery has made known. The number of each distinct species, already discoyered, is calculated at considerably above 575,000,000. Would it then be wisest to attempt to bring all these immense collections together, or to keep them separate?
But unfortunately we have to do, not with a reconstruction de novo, but with the best sort of improvement which may be found practicable in an institution which has grown up step by step, very much according to chance, and for which, with reference to the continued conservation of all its multifarious collections, new and expensive buildings have just been erected. And possibly it would be a far less beneficial course now violently to disturb these arrangements than to attempt to give them as good a direction as may be.*
The first step is to improve the governing board. Not 1. Constithat the present trustees yield to any corresponding trust. number of men in Europe, in respect either of high public
• But it will scarcely be desirable to extend the range of these collecions, except in so far as may be absolutely necessary to carry out what seem to be the present objects. It has been proposed to entrust the registration of copyright to the British Museum. However well founded may be the objections to the continuance of this registration in the hands of a private city company, that recommendation is one of more than doubtsul propriety. Mr. Martin also proposed (before the Arts' committee) to make the Museum the central medium for the protection of copyright in all fabrics involving design ; and went so far as to recommend that “the National Gallery, and the National Gallery of Practical Science, should be made branches of the British Museum.” All this appears to afford cumulative proof of the necessity of settling what the British Museum is to aim at becoming, so that the public may understand its real nature and objects.
select committee on record commissi
character or of that enlightened and general cultivation which marks the foremost rank of gentlemen. But most of them are men overburthened with other public duties, far more exciting in their nature, and pressing on them with a heavier and more immediate responsibility. The result is obvious and inevitable.
The same eulogium might with justice have been passed upon the late board of Commissioners upon the Public Records; and the defects of that board in practical working, took their origin from precisely the same cause.
“Your committee,” say the select committee of the Report of Commons on the record commission, of 1837, “in re
marking on the defective management of past commis
sions, has attributed their errors, not to any particular on, 1837, incapacity or negligence of the individuals who composed page 82,
these commissions, but to the defective principle which has pervaded the constitution of all those different bodies. Our experience of them furnishes but one additional and almost superfluous proof of the folly of expecting efficient labour and systematic care at the hands of a numerous body, unpaid for the discharge of its duties, and occupied by other avocations of a more important, a more imperative, and a wholly foreign nature.”
But not only has there been a preponderance of official persons already overworked, and a further number of persons of eminent station, who have regarded the office as an honorary distinction, and have omitted altogether to discharge its active duties, but there has also been, in past time, too great a disregard of those particular and special distinctions and attainments which mark a man as eminently fitted for high office in the government of an institution devoted to science, to literature, and to art.* It is a general remark, says Sir Harris Nicolas,
• It was not so in earlier times. In 1753, at the establisbment, the names of William Sloane, James West, Hardinge, Charles Gray, Sotheby,
vol. ii. 3732.
“that the position of men of science and literature in this country is very unlike their position in every other country of Europe; and perhaps the most forcible illustration of that fact is the extraordinary circumstance that for the Evidence, last forty years they have been entirely excluded from the Museum government of the only literary institution of the kingdom committee, , which is supported by parliament.”
The same view is maintained by the high authority of the Quarterly Review: “we cannot,” it says, “ blame the honorable men on whom the yoke has heen imposed; we blame the meanness,—shall we not add the ignorance?-of the British government who, with a culpable indifference to the best interests of their country, have kept out of every board the only men qualified to fill Quarterly
Review, them, and with false views of economy have devolved them on the gratuitous management of our nobility and p. 324. gentry.”
There is reason to hope that in this respect better days are at hand.
A board of officers, reporting and recommending to 2. Board
of officers. the trustees on matters of internal arrangement, would be a further means of greatly benefiting the institution, and would obviate the complaints of the heads of departments, as to the want of proper intercourse with the trustees. The Reverend Henry Baber, late keeper of printed books, replies to the question:
“Then, in the resolutions which the trustees come to with regard to the arrangement of the library, do not they previously consult
Birch, Ward, and Watson; in 1761 and later down to 1791, those of James Harris, Wray, Duane, Kaye, Henry Cavendish, Astle, Tyrwhitt, Clayton, Cracherode, and Charles Townley, Sir William Hamilton and Sir William Musgrave occur among the elected trustees. And in fact, these were the men the founder had always in view as directing trustees ; adding to them men of high rank as visiters. See bis will published in the appendix to the Report.
you?-Sometimes I am sent for into the room. Is there that general consultation and cordial intercourse which is satisfactory to you as head of your department?—Certainly not.” (4590-1.) The examination continues:
“Supposing the management of the Museum were vested in the heads of the departments, as a committee for the general management of the institution, subordinate to the board of principal trustees, what is your opinion of such a mode of managing the Museum in future?- I think benefit might accrue to the institution by it, as all the reports made by the respective officers of their proceedings; all proposals for increasing the collections of the Museum, by purchase, or by any other means; and all suggestions for the benefit of the establishment, would, by being previously submitted to the consideration of the officers, and discussed by them at their board, come before the trustees in a shape and manner, and with an authority which would cause them to attract the attention of the trustees more forcibly, perhaps, than they do now in many instances. Such a meeting of the officers might further tend to promote amongst them a more general interest in the welfare of the Museum, and bring before each other's notice observations and suggestions respecting each other's departments, which, under present circumstances, they think it intrusive and impertinent to make.” (4731.) And Mr. Panizzi, in his subsequent evidence on the same subject, assigns reasons which appear to be conclusive why the assistantkeepers (having custody) should form part of the board. Such is, in many foreign museums, the established custom.
Subdivision of natural history department,
The subdivision of departments does by no means appear to have been carried sufficiently far. The fossil animals are quite extensive and important enough to form a separate department, and are certainly more closely connected with zoology than with mineralogy. A geological arrangement of fossils should form another department, or rather a department including with these those geological collections, not at present possessed by the Museum, but which, sooner or later, must be added to it. Such, for example, as a collection of rocks, arranged economically; a collection of rocks, arranged topographically; and a collection of rocks, arranged according to position, &c. And it will
probably soon become highly expedient to make arrangements for the care and preservation of the zoological collections in their distinct subdivisions of vertebrata -mollusca-articulata-radiata. This department of the Museum (perhaps more than any other) appears heretofore to have been deprived of its due share of attention ;* but it is now rapidly improving. Dr. Horsfield has very justly pointed out how de- Evid. B.M.
II., 2546, ficient we have been in availing ourselves of the many et seq. naval and colonial advantages which we have possessed for the improvement of our collections. In this the Dutch have immensely outstripped us. And “ France" Ib. 2713. adds Mr. Gray, one of our curators of zoology, "has also a number of collectors in its service, called travelling naturalists, of whom there are no less than eight constantly employed in different parts of the world, for the express purpose of making collections. Indeed there is no facility which the government can give them (i. e. the collections at the Jardin des Plantes) which is not given.”
The correspondence of the trustees of the British Museum, with the lords of Her Majesty's treasury, even respecting the desired completion of buildings long decided upon, shows, a state of things in this country
* There has been singular disproportion in the sums devoted to the increase of the various collections, small as these sums have been altogether. In the five years following 1830, the sum spent in printed books was £4,905, and that on MSS. £7,397, together £12,302; and at the end of this period an extra grant of £2,000. But the antiquities (by far the richest department in 1830) bad, during this period, £12,457, with an extra grant of £8,000. While the natural history departments altogether, extra grant (of £1,310 for Mr. Hawkins's fossils) included, had but about £6,500; and these are the collections which, in 1830, were indisputably the poorest. Doubtless all these sums ought to be increased, but still it is and always will be desirable that the apportionment have some relation to the special wants of the several departments.