« ElőzőTovább »
the upper floors of the Library part—to the Departments of Natural History. The ‘Print Room’ is shown on the ground-plan between the Elgin Gallery and the northwestern extremity of the Department of Printed Books.
The next illustration shows, in detail, the ground-plan of the new Reading Room and of the adjacent bookgalleries:—
Of course, the improvements thus effected did but solve a portion of the difficulty felt, long before 1857, in accommodating the National Collections upon any adequate scale, which should provide alike for present claims and for future extension. This more effectual provision became one of the most p'ressing questions with which both the Trustees and their officers had now to deal. During the whole term of Sir A. Panizzi's Principal-Librarianship this building question increased in gravity and urgency, from year to year. Both the Trustees and the PrincipalLibrarian were intent upon its solution. But the latter was enforced, by failing health, to quit office, leaving the matter still unsolved.
Most of the little information on this part of the subject which, within my present limits, it will be practicable for me to offer to the reader, belongs, properly, to a subsequent chapter. But some brief notice must be given here of the important inquiries, 'how far, and in what way, it may be desirable to find increased space for the extension and arrangement of the various Collections of the British Museum, and the best means of rendering them available for the promotion of Science and Art,' which were made, between the months of May and August of 1860, by a Select Committee of the House of Commons.
The first question to be answered by the Committee of 1860 was this: Is it expedient, or not, that the NaturalHistory Collections should be removed from Bloomsbury, to make room for the inevitable growth of the Collections of Antiquities?
After an elaborate inquiry, spreading over three months, the Committee reported thus :—' The witnesses examined have, almost unanimously, testified to the preference over the other Collections, with which the Natural-History Collections are viewed by the ordinary and most Bookiii, numerous frequenters of the Museum. This preference is Histobi easily accounted for; the objects exhibited, especially the birds, from the beauty of their plumage, are calculated to ^p"TMSl* attract and amuse the spectators. The eye has been accustomed in many instances to the living specimens in the gTMECT Zoological Gardens, and cheap publications and prints have °TM*"TEE rendered their forms more or less familiar. It is, indeed, House Of easily intelligible that, while for the full appreciation of i860, works of archaeological interest and artistic excellence a special education must be necessary, the works of Nature may be studied with interest and instruction by all persons of ordinary intelligence. It appears, from evidence, that many of the middle classes are in the habit of forming collections in various branches of Natural History, and that many, even the working classes, employ their holidays in the study of botany or geology, or in the collection of insects obtained in the neighbourhood of London; that they refer to the British Museum, in order to ascertain the proper classification of the specimens thus obtained, and that want of leisure alone restrains the further increase of this class of visitors. Your Committee, in order to confirm their view of the peculiar popularity of the Natural-History Collections, beg to refer to a return from the PrincipalLibrarian, which shows the number of visitors in the several public portions of the Museum, at the same hour of the day, during fifteen open days, from the fifteenth of June to the eleventh of July, 1860. Prom this it appears that two thousand five hundred and fifty-seven persons were in the Galleries of Antiquities at the given hour, and one thousand and fifty-six in the King's Library and MSS. Rooms, while three thousand three hundred and seventy-eight were in the Natural-History Galleries; showing an excess of two
Book in, hundred and twenty per cent, in the Natural-History History Department over the King's Library and MSS. Rooms, Mutmum and °f thirty-three per cent, over the Galleries of AntiquiANpIsm* *ies, notwithstanding that the latter are of considerably greater extent than the Galleries of Natural History. The evidence received by your Committee induces the belief that the removal of these most popular collections from their present central position to one less generally accessible would excite much dissatisfaction, not merely among a large portion of the inhabitants of the metropolis, but among the numerous inhabitants of the country, who from time to time visit London by railway, and to whom the proximity of the British Museum to most of the railway termini, as compared with the distance of the localities to which it has been proposed to transport such collections, is of great practical importance. Similar evidence shows that the proposed removal of those collections from the British Museum has excited grave and general disapprobation in the scientific world. Your Committee cannot here employ more forcible language than that made use of in a memorial signed by one hundred and fourteen persons, including many eminent promoters and cultivators of science in England, and presented to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1848. The following are their words :—" We beg to add the expression of our opinion that the removal of the Natural-History Collections from the site where they have been established for upwards of a century, in the centre of London, particularly if to any situation distant from that centre, would be viewed by the mass of the inhabitants with extreme disfavour, it being a well-known fact that by far the greater number of visitors to the Museum consists of those who frequent the halls containing the Natural-History Collections, while it is obvious that many of