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‘A Museum of Nature does not aim, like one of Art, merely to charm the eye and gratify the sense of beauty and of grace.
‘ As the purpose of a Museum of Natural History is to
. impart and diffuse that knowledge which begets
chusnn Owen, On a National Jlumrm of
Househunlz'uy.——-The Removal of the Sloane Museum from Chelsea. —]l[ontayu House, and its History.—- The Early Trustees and Oflcera.—The Museum Reyulatious. —-Early Helpers in the Foundation and Increase of the British hluseum.—E]20chs in the Growth of the Natural History Collections—Experiences oququiriuy Visilors in the years 1765—1784.
Tun practical good sense which had always been a marked characteristic in the life of Sir Hans SLOANE is seen just as plainly in those clauses of his Will by which he leaves much latitude, in respect of means and agencies, to the discretion of his Executors and Trustees. It is seen, for example, when, after reciting some view of his own as to the methods by which his Museum should be maintained
llnmi 11, Chap. 1. Esau Hrs-roar or run Barrlsil Musnvu.
for public use, he adds the proviso—‘ in such manner as they (the Trustees) shall think most likely to answer the public benefit by me intended.’ He had a love for the old Manor House at Chelsea, and contemplated, as it seems, with some special complacency, the maintenance there of the Collections which had added so largely to the pleasures of his own fruitful life. But he was careful not to tie down his Trustees to the continuance of the Museum at Chelsea, as a condition of his bounty.~ They were at liberty to assent to its removal, should the balance of public advantage seem to them to point towards removal.
Chelsea was in that day a quiet suburban village, distant from the heart of London. As the site of a Museum it had many advantages, but it was, comparatively and to the mass of visitors and students, a long way off. The Trustees assented to a generally expressed opinion that whilst the new institution ought not to be placed in any of the highways of traffic, it ought to be nearer to them than it would be, if continued in its then abode.
One of the first places offered for their choice was the old Buckingham House (now the royal palace). It was already a large and handsome structure. The charm of its position, at that time, was not unduly boasted of in the golden letters of the inscription conspicuous upon its enta
Its prospects, as described not very long before by the late ducal owner, ‘ presented to view at once a vast town, a palace, and a cathedral, on one side; and, on the other sides, two parks, and a great part of Surrey.’ Its fine gardens ended in ‘ a little wilderness, full of blackbirds and nightingales.’ Yet it was close to the Court end of the town. But the price was thirty thousand pounds.
Another offer was that of Montagu House at Bloomsbury. Less charmingly placed, and architecturally less striking in appearance than was its rival, both its situation and its plan were better fitted for the purposes of a public Museum. It stood, it is true, on the extreme verge of the London of that day. Northward, there was nothing between it and the distant village of Highgate, save an expanse of fields and hedgerows. And for a long distance, both to the east and the west, no part of London had yet spread beyond it, except an outlying hospital or two. But there were already indications that the town would extend in that northerly direction, more quickly than in almost any other. The house had seven and-a-half acres of garden and shrubberies; and its price was but ten thousand, two hundred and fifty pounds.
Montagu House had been built about sixty years before for Ralph Mon'rAGU, first Duke of Montagu. A spacious court separated the house from Great Russell Street, towards which it presented to view only a screen of pannelled brickwork, having a massive gateway and cupola in the centre, and turreted wings, masking the domestic offices, at either end. The house itself was rather stately than beautiful, but its chief rooms and its grand staircase were elaborately painted by the best French artists of the day. And the appendant offices were more than usually extensive.
It stood on the site of a structure of much greater architectural pretensions, erected for the same owner, only twelve years before, from the designs of Robert Hooxn That first Montagu House had been burned to the ground.
The offer of Montagu House was accepted by the 'l‘rus— tees and approvedby the Government. It was found
needful to make considerable alterations in order to adapt the building to its new uses. This outlay increased the eventual cost of the mansion, and of its appliances and fittings, to somewhat more than twenty-three thousand pounds. The adaptation, with the removal and re-arrangement of the Collections, occupied nearly five years. It was not until the beginning of the year 17 59 that the Museum was opened for public inspection. When removed to Bloomsbury, it was but brought back to within a few hundred yards of its first abode.
We have seen that according to the plan for the government of the institution which SLOANE had sketched in his Codicil of July, 1749, there would have been a Board of Visitors as well as a Board of Trustees. But, by the foundation Statute, enacted in 1753, both of these Boards were incorporated into one. Forty-one Trustees were constituted, with full powers of management and control. Six of these were representatives of the several families of Corron, HARLEY, and SLOANE, the head, or nearest in lineal succession, of each family having the nomination, from time to time, of such representatives or ‘Family Trustees,’ when, by death or otherwise, vacancies should occur. Twenty were ‘Official’ Trustees, in accordance, so far, with SLoana’s scheme for the constitution of his Board of Visitors; and by these two classes, conjointly, the other fifteen Trustees were to be elected.
The Official Trustees were to be the holders for the time being of the following officesz—(l) The Archbishop of Canterbury, (2) the Lord Chancellor, (3) the Speaker of the House of Commons, (4) the Lord President of the Council, (5) the First Lord of the Treasury, (6) the Lord Privy Seal, (7) the First Lord of the Admiralty, (8 and 9)