The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4
Appendix B. — On the Establishment of Trade Museums
On the Establishment of Trade Museums.
1. The practical representation of the results depends necessarily on the general purpose of the work. This purpose is to present the information in the shape most adapted to its being of direct use to the practical man of business, who has neither time, inclination, nor the requisite training for obtaining it by means of tedious extracts from voluminous records.
The end in view will be best attained by using, as the basis for whatever information is to be supplied, a classified collection of actual specimens of all articles either produced or consumed in India, supplemented by graphic illustrations in all cases where direct exhibition is impossible. These collections will be arranged according to a collection of actual commercial samples—that is, each article will be arranged in accordance with the qualities which determine its market price.
|a.||Raw produce of India, either used in India or suitable for export.|
|b.||High-class Indian manufactures occupying, or capable of occupying, a definite position in general commerce.|
|c.||Products of other countries adapted for Indian wants; and|
|d.||European machines, tools, and implements.|
Each of these four classes has a distinguishing character and requires special action. A few remarks will explain the manner in which it is proposed to deal with each class.
3. It will be observed that the fourth class is in a materially different position from the other three. The first three classes involve commercial questions merely—as, how best to satisfy existing wants in one place by existing resources in another. In the fourth class, the very demand must be created, and it will depend on the introduction of European technical processes and of an increased application of capital and science. To a large extent it involves the question of technical education, because museums showing the machines, tools, &c., must at the same time be made to illustrate the manner of their application and use. They become thus technical museums and not merely trade museums. The cumbersome nature of the materials, and the difficulties and expenses connected with their successful establishment, render it advisable to defer systematic action in this field until the much simpler and immediately effective measures which have for their object the direct furtherance of trade have been first attained. Besides, the subject cannot be dealt with on general principles, but must be adapted to the special conditions of each locality, by selecting such branches of technical processes for actual representation as will be locally useful. The initiative, therefore, in all cases of this kind ought to be taken by local bodies or governments, and it is, properly speaking, outside the limits of the general action here kept in view.
4. The other three groups, constituting properly the materials for trade museums, are capable of being executed on a general plan, commerce being universal in its operations, so that every locality may find useful information on any branch of general commerce. A complete representation will, therefore, suit every locality, and, indeed, there will ho important advantages if the trade museums, wherever established, are absolutely identical, as they will thus enable persons at distant places to refer immediately to the sample showing the precise quality of the article which they either wish to sell or order.
One of these classes, namely, the foreign products suitable for India, has so direct a bearing on the interests of manufacturers and producers in England, that the action to be taken with regard to it cannot fall to the share of India alone. Plans are already under consideration for the purpose of securing a full representation of this class by the co-operation of mercantile and manufacturing bodies and firms in this country.
5. Of the remaining two groups, the one referring to high-class Indian manufactures has already been the subject of a series of measures undertaken with the sanction of the Secretary of State for India, and has been commenced and partially executed on the same principles as those which will be adopted, as far as possible, for the entire arrangement of the proposed trade museums. The particulars elsewhere given page 48 referring to that branch of the subject, show that, of the collections of Indian textiles already prepared, twenty sets have been distributed, thirteen in this country, and seven in India, and with respect to the projected new work of a similar description, the chief seats of commerce, &c., mentioned in the foot-note* below, have subscribed for copies of it a sum amounting in all to £3,000, and this, on the ground that it is only fair that this country should share in the cost of producing a work which is to benefit it as well as India. The steps to be taken to enable India to participate directly in this scheme, is a subject which will, in due course, receive attention.
Some further action will be necessary in order to represent, according to the same scheme, other high-class Indian manufactures. The measures for the annual international exhibitions now in progress in London will become very useful in collecting materials and information on this very important subject, and in preparing the way for a systematic measure applicable to all trade museums. It may here be remarked that, in connection with the international exhibitions, arrangements may ultimately develop themselves, not only for giving to England a greater knowledge of Indian high-class goods, but also for affording facilities for the commercial development of the trade in such goods.
6. The paragraphs inserted below,† taken from the "Memorandum relating to the Indian Collections for the International Exhibition of 1871," bear upon this branch of the subject.
The class which still remains to be spoken of, namely, "Indian Raw Produce," is the one which is principally kept in view in the present proposals. The practical arrangement of collections of many thousands of single specimens is no easy task, if it be to allow of a clear view of the various complicated groups, and to be kept within those moderate limits of size and of expense which can alone assure to the trade museums the rapid multiplication which is so essential to their usefulness. The following is the plan which insures a very compact exhibition of a large number of samples, and guarantees the conservation of the specimens, a matter of extreme difficulty everywhere, and notably in India, where the destructive influences of climate and of various insects are so inimical to the preservation of all vegetable or animal specimens. The want of proper precaution against this danger has ruined many a valuable collection of Indian products distributed by the East India Company to institutions at the places indicated. below,* but which have long since ceased to exist in a serviceable state. It is evident that efficient trade museums can only be established if it is possible to preserve the collections for a considerable period in a nearly unchanged state. The mechanical means adopted to secure this end are therefore essential to the success of the undertaking, and not merely executive detail, upon which it would have been out of place to enter here.
7. Each specimen, after having been kept for a time in a hot-air chamber at a temperature destructive of animal life, is then introduced into a tin case with a glass front, which allows a free view of the specimen, and provided with a cover which can, when necessary, be hermetically sealed.
* The places which have already subscribed for the work referred to are:—In England, Birmingham, Blackburn, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Halifax (private firm), Leicester, London (Science and Art Department), Manchester, Nottingham, Salford, and Sheffield. In Scotland—Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Paisley. The Minister of Commerce at Berlin, and at several other places on the Continent, have likewise subscribed for copies of the work.
† "In the choice of the articles it cannot be sufficiently insisted on that the designs should, in all cases, be artistic as well as characteristically native, and that the workmanship should be as perfect as possible. It is very desirable to impress upon Indian work a character for precision and completeness which it at present often wants. This observation, of course, applies only in a restricted sense to decoration and ornamentation applied by free hand, and in which the charm consists, to a large extent, in the absence of a stiff regularity, and in the license allowed to the artist. But it does apply in all instances where the artistic form is injured by the unevenness in the sweep of a curve, or by a negligent finish of corners and edges, or where the practical fitness of an object depends on the thorough execution of joints, &c. In all such cases exactness of execution must be supposed to have been aimed at by the artist; consequently, if the execution falls very much short of the intention, the looker-on is involuntarily impressed with a sense of failure, which detracts seriously from whatever artistic merits the object may otherwise possess. It is obvious, besides, that the employment of articles of Indian produce for actual domestic use, and not merely as show specimens, will depend on how far solidity and practical fitness have been combined with artistic excellencies.
"There is another point in connection with the art objects which deserves special mention. Of late there has been a tendency to apply to large objects the minute ornamentation characteristic of the Bombay inlaid work or of the black-wood carving. There is nothing objectionable in this so long as this minute ornamentation is only intended to fill out the borders, fields, and panels of a bolder design, giving a character of its own to the object. If this intention were always followed, not only would the artistic sense, which for such large objects requires something intermediate between the general outline and the minute surface ornamentation, be satisfied, but it would often also materially increase solidity and practical usefulness, especially in the Bombay carved furniture.
"It would be well also for importers to bear in mind that it is difficult to sell very expensive articles, except when they are in some way especially remarkable. Comparatively cheap articles of nearly all kinds can, if well made, be hold at remunerative pi ices, but they must be at once characteristic, artistic, and of good workmanship."
* After the Great Exhibition of 1851, the East India Company presented collections of Indian products to institutions, &c., at the following places:—London, Edinburgh, Dublin, York, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Cork, Belfast, Norwich, Ipswich, Stoke-upon-Trent, Warrington, Aberdeen, Kew, Hammersmith, Berlin, Philadelphia, New York, Wirtzburg, Stockholm, Erlangen, Paris, Copenhagen, &c., &c.
The cost of one such stand, exhibiting 1,000 specimens, will, with the facilities afforded through this department, probably not much exceed £60. The permanency and the compactness of the arrangement are very important points in its favour. The permanency-renders the task of the keeper of a trade museum a very easy one, and assures the maintenance of identity on the part of the samples. The compactness makes it possible to accommodate a very valuable and exhaustive collection in a comparatively small building or room even. It will thus economise all merely extraneous and adventitious expenses of the museum, buildings, &c., which in themselves have no direct connection with the purpose of the museum, and will thus prevent sums intended for the promotion of this purpose from being diverted to accessories.
8. The specimens will be selected with the closest adherence to the established trade classification, noting carefully the several sorts and varieties of every article; and the compactness of the arrangement will render easy a comparison of the several specimens. Not all articles, however, will admit of exhibition in this manner. For some, as coals, for instance, or stones, &c., used in construction, elaborate precautions for preservation are unnecessary, and they must be exhibited in much larger quantities than most of the other articles. Others, again, such as vegetables, succulent plants, various animals, fishes, &c., can be shown directly only in a comparatively cosily and inconvenient manner. Actual examples will, therefore, in these cases, be seldom resorted to; models, drawings, illustrations, and photographs must convey the required information.
This is to a certain extent a matter of minor consequence, as, generally speaking, the quality which renders their permanent exhibition as specimens so difficult equally unfits them for becoming objects of general commerce.
9. Such is the general outline of the trade collections, which, however, forms a skeleton only, as it were, to which flesh and blood and significance will be given by the formation attached to the individual articles. Their position in natural history, industrial uses, and modes of preparation, will be made clear by numerous illustrations; their production, consumption, and commercial distribution will be shown by maps, and their prices, with their fluctuations and averages, will be recorded by maps and diagrams. All these means will be supplemented by tabular statements and descriptions, arranged encyclopaedically, and giving for each article in-dividually all the information collected during the progress of the Industrial Survey.
The survey, however, will not only collect information about products, but will also necessarily take account of markets and their connection. In so far as possible, the subject will be shown graphically on a series of maps, and all details not admitting of graphical representation will be digested according to an encyclopaedic plan similar to that to be adopted for the articles.
10. It is needless to attempt at present to trace out the trade museums in more detail. Most of these details must be arranged as the occasion arises. Enough, however, has been said to bring out the character of these museums, and to justify the opinion formed of their advantages, if only their execution be made equal to their conception.
11. The usefulness of trade museums organised according to the system just described will be in direct relation to their number. Their power of giving to one portion of India a knowledge of the products of the other parts increases with the number of districts which possess the full complement of collections forming a trade museum.
The knowledge possessed by India of such products of other countries as are suited for her use will increase in the same ratio; while the knowledge of Indian products in England, Europe, and throughout the commercial world generally will depend on the number of trade museums spread all over the world.
Before bringing forward the flan for the establishment of trade museums all over India, it will be useful to glance at their connection with similar institutions, and at the history of the efforts made in India to promote the ends for which the trade museums are devised.
12. The name, "Trade Museum," makes it necessary to consider, in the first place, their relation with other museums.
The relation is only a formal one. The trade museums are museums in so far as they are permanent institutions containing classified collections of specimens, but their final purpose separates them from other museums. Art museums, for instance, have, as final objects,' a representa- page 54 tion, promotion, and cultivation of art; other museums, or branches of such, tend to promote scientific knowledge in general, such as natural history museums, geological and mineralogical museums, architectural museums, &c., others still, not aiming at completeness, want only to collect a few leading types from every field, and thus to facilitate education and instruction.
Each of these classes of museums, artistic, scientific, or educational, must be conceived and organised on a plan corresponding with its purpose, that is, it must be a working instrument in the hands of the artist, man of science, or teacher, and familiarise the general public with its objects. Such museums have only an indirect connection with the economic organisation of the country by that general influence which art, science, and education must exert on agriculture, manufactures, and commerce; their economic influence is, therefore, necessarily limited; but it is this which the trade museums directly and essentially look to. They will be arranged solely with respect to the requirements of commerce and manufactures, although indirectly they may afford some help to the scientific man by the specimens of natural objects which they contain, or they must preserve or improve artistic taste by their specimens of art manufactures, and finally, they may be made useful as means of technical education. All this will follow if only they adequately realise their primary intention of being useful instruments in promoting trade and manufactures. Thus it will be seen that there is no similarity, as regards practical purpose, between museums, as usually understood, and trade museums. It was necessary to enter on these questions of principle in order to prevent any confusion between museums, as at present existing in India, and the now proposed trade museums.
13. The central museums at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, the museums in the chief provincial towns, and even in some district towns, have an important mission to fulfil, and it will be of the greatest service to India if institutions of a similar kind should increase in number as well as in the extent of their influence.
But in connection with these museums there is a large and special field for the action of trade and technical museums. Existing museums should be supplemented by the addition of trade museums, and it will frequently happen that such museums will become nuclei around which scientific, artistic, or educational museums may be from time to time aggregated according to local interests and help in the matter.
14. There is a direct connection between trade and technical museums and another class of institutions, namely, exhibitions. In fact, in reviewing the various arguments in favour of exhibitions, we find amongst them this one viz., that they give a complete picture of the material 'condition of the country—of its products, its manufactures, and the commercial and technical spirit which creates all this material wealth—and thus offer industrial and commercial information on the largest scale. These are the very objects which the trade museums are designed to effect, and it is therefore very important that we should discuss the relations of the two institutions. As a preliminary remark, it may be said that the idea of trade museums was brought forcibly to the mind of the author of this memoir on comparing the promises and expectations with which the first exhibitions were opened with their actual tangible results. He has had on several of these occasions the mission to organise the Indian Department, and, on watching intently the practical influence of the Indian exhibitions, as well as of the other branches of these gigantic undertakings, it struck him, as it struck the minds of a great many other people, that the expectations of a great practical result were disappointed in some respects, and that more direct and systematic means must be taken in order to realise them. The present proposals for the establishment of trade museums have had their origin in the practical experience of these exhibitions, and in the conviction that some more steps must be taken to make temporary exhibitions as useful as they might be.
15. The present moment may be considered as an important one for the future of exhibitions. After a successful career of 20 years, not taking into account the smaller efforts before 1851, the public mind is now disposed to look to the actual performance rather than to enthusiastic visions of possible future results. The continuance and development of these exhibitions will depend on their adaptation to definite practical ends, the vague sentimental aureola surrounding them having worn off. The change in the public mind is very significant, and the arrangement of the present series of international exhibitions is to some degree already influenced by the new sentiment. The question is one of considerable interest for India, as she not only takes part in the international exhibitions, but has already made a very good beginning with exhibitions in her own provinces. The financial and material position of India renders it imperative on us to obtain the maximum of the results from any efforts made by her in this direction. If some observations which have to be made should chance to appear insufficiently appreciative of the services which exhibitions have rendered, it is best to admit and to insist at the very outset that the great international exhibitions since 1851 have been very important events, were it only for the great stir and public interest in economic questions which they have excited, an page 55 interest which has given importance to many a useful reform or movement which otherwise would have remained without popular sympathy, as, for instance, artistic and technical education, monetary and metric reform, &c. They have thus been instrumental in bringing into practical execution many conceptions, which, however, were held and elaborated independently of them. It is only when the results are tested by the amount of practically available and definite information, mercantile or manufacturing, which they have afforded, that the efforts which they have demanded seem out of all proportion to the smallness of the permanent effects which they have produced. They present an overwhelming crowd of objects, arranged principally for show, and with very small regard to the exhibition of their really important features, and above all they presented a great want of systematic and readily accessible data on the production, commercial importance, price, &c., of the articles.
16. This is almost the exact counterpart of the conditions which alone enables us to gather a large amount of information. These conditions are a small number of selected, logically classified, and fully described articles. In fact, the very elements which create such a personal interest in exhibitions on the part of a large number of people, all tend to make them less suitable for the purpose here kept in view; it is hardly possible that it should be otherwise. What are the principal motives why exhibitors send their goods, and why visitors throng to the exhibitions—the exhibitors, whose cumulative personal efforts make the exhibitions, and the visitors, who are supposed to be the people benefited by them?
In order to excite the personal efforts of the exhibitors, the exhibitions strongly appeal to their interests—to the extension of their business, in consequence of the increased acquaintance of the buying public with their productions. This personal interest has been strengthened by systems of honorific distinctions, such as medals, &c., and in the smaller local exhibitions (such as agricultural shows) by substantial prizes in money or other valuable materials. Public bodies, governments, and occasionally single exhibitors, have arranged their exhibitions with a direct public end in view, in order to give to every visitor full access to industrial information; but this has been exceptional. It is true that even if every exhibitor has only his own personal advantage in view, his work will, at the same time, contribute to the public good, whether he intends it or not, and the united results of the efforts of thousands of single exhibitors must, in addition to their advantages to the exhibitors, give a representation of the products of different countries, from which it is impossible not to deduce some important additions to our knowledge. But tis representation of the products and manicures of a country must be very incomplete, ragmentary, and unequal, and dependent entire on whether in some particular trade or locally there are individuals who, either from public spirit, or the expectation of personal advantage, re prompted to join in it; and it may be aded that, to facilitate business-like information on any trade or branch of trade is, as a rule, against the personal interest of the exhibitor, who, anxious to drive competitors out of the field, is very interested in keeping such information to himself as a monopoly, whereas the public, which is benefited by every facility given to competition, is, on the contrary, interested in taking such information as public and as accessible as possible. In the balance of advantages and disadvantages which exhibitions my thus bring to the individual exhibitor, the latir may very often prevail, and thus bring about numerous abstentions, as was the case in the Paris Exhibition of 1867, and the London Exhibition of 1871, when many important firms found it was not to their interest to join.
If these are the necessary motivs of exhibitors, and if they comprise all the difficulties thrown by them in the way of obtaining for public use all the industrial information which was expected from exhibitions, there are additional difficulties and inconveniences arising from the manner in which such exclamations have been carried out. The heavy outlay for buildings and other preparations was reason for giving, perhaps, an undue preponderance to various devices, adopted with be view of making the exhibitions more popular, and attracting the largest possible lumber of visitors. The exhibitions by effects in that direction have been rendered more attractive, but perhaps less instructive, systematic arrangement being too often sacrificed in te desire to obtain a picturesque effect or an imposing coup d' ætxil. Finally, the enormous lumber of visitors, although it made the exhibitions a financial success, and although it greatly extended their influence in some respects, contributed much to prevent a quiet an systematic study on the part of those few who came not to be amused, but with a serious purpose.
Add to this their ephemeral nature precluding any really effective comparison between two successive displays, save by dry and necessarily incomplete reports, or by vague reniniscences, and it may be conceived how it cane to pass that these enormous efforts have contributed so little, comparatively, to our stock of precise industrial information ready for practical application.
17. It is important that these remarks should page 56 not be misunderstood. They do not mean that exhibitions generally are not useful, or not worth the trouble involved in preparing them; far from it. The great public interest which they arouse in economic matters, the advantages of the commercial competition which they keep alive, and the spirit of honourable rivalry and emulation which they foster, are powerful motives for promoting and extending the movement. But it is useless to except from them that which, by the very nature of the causes which make them successful, they cannot realise. The primary incentive to all contributors is personal profit or personal distinction, and it should even be a matter for serious consideration, whether the personal advantages held out by exhibitions should not be increased; but they cannot, at the same time, be expected to be institutions for the direct promotion of information—commercial, industrial, and artistic. They may contribute raw materials towards this object, but the machinery for elaborating them, and for making them generally useful, must be designed with special reference to the purpose which is to be attained. To give an example: the effect of the exhibitions on art manufactures in England would have been very transient and partial had these ephemeral impulses not been consolidated into a systematic effort by the establishment of the South Kensington Museum and the Science and Art Department. That department is the specially devised engine by means of which the artistic results of the exhibitions are worked out and made accessible throughout England, and utilised for art education.
18. In a similar manner, exhibitions suggest and demonstrate the advantage of having full industrial information about every product, raw or manufactured, and about every market; but they do not give all the necessary data, and they even present that which they do give in such a crude, undigested form, that it is not practically available, the effort to elaborate and complete it surpassing the strength of single individuals. This end will be better attained by special organisation provided for the purpose than by attempting to reconcile almost incompatible conditions, and making exhibitions an undefined cross between bazaars and academies, or scientific institutions, supplying amusement and instruction in addition to profit. This is not the place for investigating the question of the precise organisation which would be most suitable for exhibitions. The observations here offered aim only at ascertaining how far they may be made serviceable for obtaining industrial information. In this report their action must only be suggestive and supplementary. Whatever immediate result they may bring to light must be elaborated, rendered permanent, and made easily accessible by means of trade and technical museums.
19. These institutions will contain only a comparatively limited number of specimens, selected solely on account of their trade importance, arranged solely according to their commercial classification, and exhibited in such a manner as to give the best idea of their essential qualities, and accompanied by the most exhaustive information obtainable, which, indeed, for India, will necessitate a special industrial survey.
Such museums will render the results of exhibitions permanently useful, and will form standards of comparison for judging of future progress. Exhibitions need not then tread the old ground over and over again; and whatever of new or different they may bring forth, such as a new product, a new manufacture, or improvement in quality, &c., will, as the occasion arises, be at once secured as a permanent addition to the trade museums, which will then be kept always up to the level of the latest changes. These museums may, besides, be multiplied by almost identical reproductions, and thus afford not only a permanent but a very widely spread source of reference, and make possible, wherever they are established, a comparison with, and reference to, the same standards.
These few remarks, taken in conjunction with the other portions of the present memoir will, perhaps, sufficiently explain the relations which exist between exhibitions and trade museums, the reason why both are useful, and the expectations which may be entertained with regard to their action.
20. In India the movement in furtherance of exhibitions and cognate institutions has during the last twenty years gradually acquired a considerable force, and has been largely prompted by the desire to obtain and to disseminate sound industrial information. Although several large exhibitions have been held, as that of Agra in 1865, and that of Calcutta in 1864, and smaller ones by the score, it must be owned that these efforts have been more or less of a spasmodic character. That their purpose of collecting and diffusing industrial information has been only partially attained need not be considered surprising, after the exhibition already given of the necessity for specially designed trade museums if permanent and tangible results are to be attained in this direction. They have, however, familiarised the natives with under-takings of this character, and paved the way for more systematic and thoroughgoing schemes. The necessity for a really systematic action has always been felt in India by those who have approached this question. Almost all promoters of the movement have also been agreed that this systematic action must be rather local and repeated at short intervals than exhausted by a few huge displays. There has been only one attempt to organise an exhibition on a scale page 57 approaching to the European International Exhibitions. This was the projected Bombay-Exhibition, which fell to the ground in the cotton panic of 1865. A system of numerous local shows, however, was introduced and successfully kept up for some years by Lord Harris in the Madras Presidency, where there have been since 1856 numerous district exhibitions, the Government contributing important sums for expenses, prizes, &c. In the Bombay Presidency the Government of Lord Elphinstone entertained in 1858, at Dr. Birdwood's suggestion, plans not only for a regular series of industrial exhibitions, but for the simultaneous establishment of local economic museums. The financial embarrassment, however, following so shortly after the mutiny, did not allow of these views being carried into execution.
In Bengal, on the occasion of the Agricultural Exhibition in Calcutta, in 1864, the then Lieutenant-Governor of the Lower Provinces, Sir Cecil Beadon, recorded in a minute his proposals for annual agricultural exhibitions in each division, and proposed a Government grant of 30,000 Rs. for the purpose. In the North-West Provinces a committee was organised in 1867 with the view of suggesting the best means for the establishment, not of exhibitions, but of local economic museums, with the intention of introducing in that manner European processes of manufacture, &c.
All these successive proposals, and the actual exhibitions held in many places, show at least that the ground is already well prepared for action on a comprehensive plan, and that there is a remarkable agreement between the different efforts, in showing that the action must be regular and local in order to take root in the country.