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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4


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The fact that Indian and Colonial affairs are now attracting great attention, renders the present a favourable time for bringing forward the question of the establishment, in connection with each other, of two Museums, one for India and the other for the Colonies—to form, as it were, an Imperial Museum, representing the whole of the dominions of the Crown.

An India Museum already exists, and its collections are now in the course of arrangement in the old Exhibition galleries at South Kensington, which have been leased for a term for that purpose.

But the unsuitability of the building and the distance of South Kensington from the centres of public and of business life, render it impossible to give a practical effect to any plan of organisation which would develop the full usefulness of this Museum as a public institution.

The outlines of such a plan I have already laid before the public. Its leading features are:—
1.Combination of the India Museum with the India Library, so as to bring together the products, manufactures, and antiquities contained in the Museum, with the books, manuscripts, and publications in the Library, thus uniting within the same building the whole of the materials available in this country for the study of Indian Literature, arts, sciences, and history, as well as for the investigation of its present political, social, and commercial condition.
2.Connection with the Royal Asiatic Society, whose meeting rooms should be placed in the same building with the India Museum and Library.page 4
3.Foundation of an Indian Institute for Lecture, Inquiry, and Teaching. Such an Institute should be established under the auspices of the Royal Asiatic Society, to the members of which oriental science owes most of its discoveries in past times, and which has always been one of the main channels through which correct notions on India have been disseminated in this country. There would be regular courses of public lectures on Indian Geography and History, on Products and Manufactures, Science and Literature, and on the People and present Administration of the country, these subjects being divided between four permanent lectureships. The contents of the Museum and Library would supply the fullest illustrations for such lectures. In addition, frequent opportunity would be found for making arrangements for the delivery of occasional lectures in order to bring before the public special subjects or questions of Indian interest. All these subjects would appeal to the public in general, but for the benefit of those who required a more special scientific training, teaching classes would be organised for instruction in Indian Botany, Zoology, Mineralogy, and Languages.
4.Preparation of sets of Trade Museums, showing in a condensed form the essential facts referring to Indian products and manufactures, as also of sets of typical collections illustrating Indian Ethnology, Mythology, and other special features of the country, or of its people. These collections should be distributed among the leading Museums of England, India, and the Colonies, so that every important commercial or manufacturing centre throughout the Empire should share in the advantages arising from the existence of the India Museum, and possess an epitome of its contents.

Further details on all these subjects will be found in a pamphlet on the Indian Institute, published in the course of last year, as also in the paper on "The India Museum Question," read before the Society of Arts in April of last year, and now reprinted (page 37), as also in the annexed appendices on Trade Museums and International Exhibitions. It may be mentioned incidentally that the description given in these papers of the manner in which it is proposed to utilize the India Museum collections illustrates a few of the principles which, if generally adopted, would enable the country page 5 at large to participate directly in the resources of all the great central Museums, such as the British Museum, the South Kensington, and the Geological and Patent Museums in London, together with the two National Museums of Edinburgh and Dublin, all of which should be regarded and administered as storehouses and workshops from which to supply provincial and local Museums.

With regard to the Colonies no collections yet exist comparable with those of the India Museum and the India Library. The subject of a suitable representation of the Colonies in England by means of a Colonial Museum has, however, been for years discussed, and both the Colonies and their friends at home are prepared to take an active interest in the matter, as is evinced by the fact that some of the Colonies have already voted money for the establishment of a Colonial Museum in London. A collection of the products of one Colony, Queensland, has been for some time exhibited in this country, having occupied a room adjoining the India Museum at South Kensington. This collection has now been sent to Philadelphia, where also all the other Colonies are likely to be well represented. If at the close of the Centennial Exhibition some arrangements were made for retaining all these collections in London, they would supply at once a nucleus for a complete Colonial Museum, which no doubt, would be subsequently and speedily enriched by many special collections.

The one thing which is required for the establishment of a Colonial Museum, is that which is also required for making the India Museum really useful to the public, that is the erection of a suitable building in a suitable locality. If the two Museums were placed in the same building they would by their mere juxtaposition form an Imperial Museum, representing the whole of the British possessions. At the same time it is neither necessary nor expedient that their contents should be merged into one Museum. It is of the greatest importance to retain the individuality, not only of the Indian, but also of each one of the great colonial collections, so as to keep alive the interest of each Colony in its own special Museum. The whole will then be rather a federation of Museums than a single Museum.

Subject to this division according to the separate Colonies, the page 6 general plan for the Colonial Museum might follow the same lines as those proposed for the India Museum.

1.A Colonial Library and Reading Room would considerably enhance the value of the Museum, as at present there is great difficulty in obtaining access to publications referring to the Colonies, especially to those published in the Colonies themselves.
2.Provision should be made for having the rooms of the Royal Colonial Institute in the same building as the Colonial Museum. The members of the Colonial Institute would stand in a similar relation to the Colonial Museum as the members of the Asiatic Society to the India Museum. They would serve as links between the Museum and the general public. The different character of the two Societies well represents the typical difference between the India Museum and the Colonial Museum, the one dealing with an old country like India, full of literary and archaeological memorials of a remote antiquity, and showing, even in its present condition, in its people, and in its arts, the complexity resulting from an old history; whilst the character of the Colonies is essentially modern and utilitarian, devoid of the historical and artistic element which constitutes the charm of everything referring to India, but, nevertheless, on account of that very utilitarian character, of the greatest practical interest, and more intimately connected with many of the social and political problems which, at the present time, engage public attention.
3.The Trade Museums, referred to under the head of the India Museum, will likewise contain a full representation of Colonial produce, so that the Colonial trade collections would be as widely distributed as it has been proposed to distribute the Indian Collections.
4.Finally, the erection of a Colonial Museum would give the opportunity for a concentration of the offices of the various Colonial Agents now dispersed over London. Such a concentration would have several important advantages, and would prove an economical arrangement. Considering that the yearly rents of the various Colonial offices amounts to upwards of £4,000, the capital sum representing this yearly expenditure would fall not far short of £100,000, a sum which would provide not only for the building of the offices, but would go a long way towards paying for the erection of the Museum as well. In addition, the work of the Colonial Agents, as also the usefulness page 7 of the Colonial Museums, would both gain by it. To the Colonial Agents the existence of a Museum and Library, containing full information on their respective Colonies, would be invaluable in their dealings with commercial men or with intending emigrants. In many instances, where now long explanations would be necessary, they would simply have to send the inquirers into the Museum. And the Museum itself would benefit by such an arrangement. Each Colonial Section would obtain the general supervision of the representative of the Colony; whilst the Collections and the Library, by being constantly referred to on actual business, would have to be kept up to the level of the latest information, and would be constantly tending to become in their arrangement more suitable for practical purposes. No better plan could be imagined for retaining the individuality of each colonial section. This characteristic should be encouraged above all things, so much so that probably it would be an advantage to express that individuality even in the architectural treatment of the Colonial Museum. Each section representing one of the great Colonies, though communicating with the others, may be more or less independent in its arrangement, and have its own entrance, the offices and the Museum being in immediate juxtaposition.

The combined India and Colonial Museums, established according to the above plan, would in every way become a living institution worthily representing the past history and the present resources of the British Empire throughout the world. Such an institution would afford not only exhaustive materials for study and research, but would likewise be suitable for reference by the Indian and Colonial authorities, by men of business or of letters, and by officials or emigrants intending to proceed to India or the Colonies. Thus it would be instrumental in furthering actual work or business, whether scientific, political, or commercial. At the same time, through its co-operation with the Asiatic Society and the Colonial Institute, through its reading-room, its lectures and publications, through the Trade Museums and other typical collections distributed all over the country, as well as throughout the most important places in India and the Colonies, all the information would be rendered available to the whole Empire.