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. arrangement of the Museum building at large, at the date of the erection of the new Reading-Room.
The shaded part of the building itself shows the portions allotted to the Library. The unshaded part is assigned, on the ground floor, to the Department of Antiquities, and
, (speaking generally) on the floor above—in common with
the upper floors of the Library part—to the Departments of Natural His/02y. The ‘Prz'nt 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 :—
The general appearance of the
Room may be shown thus
interior of the Read
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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 pressing 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 NaturalIlistory Collections should be removed from Bloomsbury, to make room for the inevitable growth of the Collections of Antiquities .7
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-His
tory Collections are viewed by the ordinary and most numerous frequenters of the Museum. This preference is easily accounted for; the objects exhibited, especially the birds, from the beauty of their plumage, are calculated to attract and amuse the spectators. The eye has been accustomed in many instances to the living specimens in the Zoological Gardens, and cheap publications and prints have rendered their forms more or less familiar. It is, indeed, easily intelligible that, while for the full appreciation of 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. From 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