Moncure Daniel Conway published in 1882 a book about South Kensington Museum:

Travels in South Kensington with notes on decorative art and architecture in England New York: Harper Brothers

Though this was the period when Pitt-Rivers' collection was sited at South Kensington Museum sadly he does not mention it. However, he does give a contemporary view of the context in which Pitt-Rivers collection was seen.

Here are some extracts:

pp. 22-24

... ten thousand people and a dozen governments have been at infinite pains and expense to bring the cream of the East and of the West to your own doors ... There is in the South Kensington Museum as noble a Buddha as that at Daiboots, which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have journeyed for weeks to see: you have only to walk fifteen minutes to see it not a copy either, but the huge bronze itself. You may travel through Mexico, Peru, and Chili for ten years, and in all that time never see one-hundredth part of the vestiges of their primitive life and history which you shall see in the British Museum. Greece? and be captured by brigands. Professor Newton has Greece under lock and key, from Diana's Temple to the private accounts of Pericles. Assyria? you go, and find that the human heart of it has migrated; you come back, and George Smith reconstructs it for you ... it was not long before we were making our pilgrimage through Stone Age and Bronze Age, as recovered by the ages of Iron and Gold, and still more by the ages of Art and Science.

p. 25

Indeed, so far as the museum at South Kensington is concerned to which the present paper is especially devoted to study it with care, and then stand in it intelligently, must, one would say, convey to any man a sense of his own eternity. Vista upon vista! The eye never reaches the farthest end in the past from which humanity has toiled upward, its steps traced in fair victories over chaos, nor does it alight on any historic epoch not related to itself: the artist,artisan, scholar, each finds himself gathering out of the dust of ages successive chapters of his own spiritual biography. And even as he so lives the Past from which he came over again, he finds, at the converging point of these manifold lines of development, wings for his imagination, by which he passes on the aerial track of tendency, stretching his hours to ages, living already in the Golden Year. There is no other institution in which an hour seems at once so brief and so long.

pp. 25-26

The museum has been in existence about twenty-five years (1882). Its buildings and contents have cost the nation about one million pounds : an auction on the premises to-day could not bring less than twenty millions. Such a disproportion between outlay and outcome has led some to regard South Kensington as a peculiarly fortunate institution; but there has been no luck in its history. ... If magnificent collections and invaluable separate donationsLave steadily streamed to this museum, so that its buildings are unceasingly expanding for their reception, it is because the law of such things is to seek such protection and fulfil such uses as individuals can rarely provide for them. ... [apparently quoting Henry Cole] "... It is no longer a matter of opinion or of discussion how a building shall be constructed for the purpose of exhibiting pictures and other articles. The laws of it are as fixed as the multiplication table. Where there have been secured substantial, luminous galleries for exhibition, in a fire-proof building, and these are known to be carefully guarded by night and day, there can be no need to wait long for treasures to flow into it.Above all, let your men take care of the interior, and not set out with wasting their strength and money on external grandeur and decoration. The inward built up rightly, the outward will be added in due season."

pp. 30-31

This being the condition of London, the state of things in other parts of the United Kingdom may easily be inferred.There are now fifteen important public museums and art galleries in or near London. The ancient buildings of interest are shown without fees. More than a million people visited a single one of these museums last year. There are seven large schools for art training in London alone, and 151 in the whole country, with 30,239 pupils.

Pages 39 and on discuss the layout of the museum and of the individual galleries

pp. 49-50

Entering now the Ceramic Gallery, we find its contents illustrated by a very ingeniously devised series of window etching (as they may be called), which are probably unique in the his- tory of work on glass. The windows on one side of this room, fifteen in number, each double, were intrusted to Mr. William B. Scott, who as an archaeologist in art has few superiors, Mr. Scott designed no fewer than forty-eight large pictures, representing the history of ceramic art from the most ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Indian, and Persian down to Wedgwood ; and these he has placed in the fifteen windows, where, unhappily, they are little observed, being without mention, much less description, in any work except that now before the reader. They are for the most part in black and white, colors being introduced only once or twice,and then but slightly. The first and second windows are devoted to the Chinese, their work being, if not the earliest,the most ancient in porcelain, and that which has most influenced the European art. Here is shown their whole method, from the preparation of the clay, the half-naked natives bringing the kaolin from caves in panniers, others steeping it in water, refining it in large mortars, and kneading it on tables. The potter is seen before his rude wheel,and forming the vessel by hand-pressure. And after this we trace his work to the furnace, and on to its place in the shop. This work implies the most patient study of original Chinese models. One window represents characteristicChinese ornamentation such as the royal dragon and the bird of paradise, and a bazar at Pekin. The third window represents early Egyptian art. The upper part shows the casting of brick by packing in boxes, and then turning it out,all under the whip of the taskmaster, the work and the whip being but little different to-day from what they were in the ancient days whose relics have been so diligently studied by Mr. Scott on the papyri of the British Museum. Beneath, a skilled workman is painting a large Canopus: he is on his knees, with his feet doubled behind him. One page, so to speak, of this window represents Assyrian art by a triumphal procession, in which immense vases are carried on ox trucks, and smaller ones on the heads of prisoners a design based upon discoveries in Nineveh which show the great importance that people ascribed to earthenware. The fourth window is Greek and Etruscan ...

p. 52

It adds greatly to the charm of these windows that they are as a frame around the objects whose history they tell. Fine examples of the "lustre-ware" from the earliest ages are in this gallery.

pp. 56-57

The visitor to the Ceramic Gallery in this museum will be apt to admit that there were never windows that shed more light than these of the kind required by a student. He will see lustres on the lustre-wares beyond what mere sunlight can give ... He will, indeed, find at every step that he is really exploring in this gallery of pots and dishes strata marked all over with the vestiges of human and ethnical development. Nothing can be more complete than the arrangement of the gallery. Not only is it chronological, but beneath each particular specimen a card tells when and where it was made, and the price paid for it by the museum. If it has gone off with the floating collection, the card reports that also.

p. 58

But it must not be supposed that this is merely an antiquarian collection : the best work now going on all over the world is represented, and one may see by the superb examples of modern Berlin work and of Minton that England and Germany are engaged in a competition for excellence which bids fair to distance anything done in the past.

p. 60

The little sixpenny guide-book sold at the door is necessarily provisional; the historical and descriptive volume which such an institution requires must remain a desideratum so long as the museum itself is changing and growing daily before our eyes. But the materials for that work exist; specialists have studied well the various departments; there exist nearly twenty large Blue-books recording the origin and growth of the museum; and when all these are sifted and their connected story told enriched, as we may hope it will be, from the memories of those men who have founded and conducted the work to its present condition the history so told will be in itself a sort of literary museum, replete with curiosities, picturesque incidents, and romance.

pp. 71-72

It is a happy characteristic of this museum that one meets in it very few objects whose interest or beauty is marred by association with war. The spoils are few, the tokens of friendship with foreign nations innumerable. Some pieces of work in gold brought back from Abyssinia and from the kingdom of Ashantee the latter close to the famous umbrella ofKing Koffee were exhibited, and a few of them remain here to show by their exquisite chasing that blows aimed at so-called savages are likely to fall upon the springing germs of civilization. ... The bird that was perched on the top of King Koffee's state chair is also of fine workmanship. It is rude in design, truly; but it is hardly ruder than the golddove, the ampulla which holds the oil used at English coronations ; and perhaps, like the latter, it purposely imitated aprimitive and consecrated form. These African trophies are unpleasantly suggestive of the worst phase of British policy, or impolicy; but they are slight incidents in a museum which will forever be considered the ripest fruit of the long Victorian and victorious era of Peace.

It is quite impossible for me to invite my reader to an exploration of the loan collections. Some of the ancient jewellery and gold work which has been, or is, shown here is not only intrinsically priceless and beautiful, but also historical ...

pp. 79-80

The visitor to South Kensington should bear in mind that there may be Loan Exhibitions in some of the adjacent buildings of a highly important character. As I write there is a collection on exhibition which will well repay a visitor for the exploration required to reach it, for it has had to find rooms on the west side of the Gardens: this is the anthropological collection gathered by General Pitt Rivers, who, before he became heir of the late Lord Rivers, had made the name of Lane Fox so noble in the [p.80] scientific world that one almost regrets that his good-fortune, in which all rejoice, involved a change of name. In this collection the evolution of savage and barbarian weapons, ornaments, utensils, and the like may be studied. General Pitt Rivers has arranged boomerangs in series, so that the completest form may be traced back to the first slightly curved stick found to carry some increase of force. The development of a shield from a mere stick grasped in the hand, next with a protection for the hand, may be traced. There is a series of paddles upon which may be followed a human form, degraded from one surface to another, until a grotesque conventional figure appears on the last without a trace of human semblance. The ornamental marks on the bodies of the pots are found in some instances to have been suggested by the network print left by their corded holders. These are but a few instances of the way in which objects are made by a man of science to tell their own history. Among the articles which have received the attention of General Pitt Rivers are the caps worn by the women of Brittany, and a few supplementary cases of these have been added to his wonderful collection. An examination of these caps which are of so much importance that a woman is not allowed to enter church without one, nor with one of a pattern belonging to another parish shows good reason for the supposition that their sanctity is derived from them all having been developed from the head-dress of the nun. Such is the opinion that General Pitt Rivers expressed when he conducted me through his rooms. He showed me that each cap has parts which correspond to parts of the normal cap of the nun. These parts have grown small in some cases; in others they are pinned up ; but in the latter case they are let down on important occasions funerals and weddings and the wearers are then all nun-like.

These little French things, however, are hardly to be included in this great collection perhaps the most important private collection of objects illustrative of anthropology in the world. Nor is there any book more useful to the student of anthropology than the illustrated and explanatory catalogue of 1247 [p. 81] of these objects prepared by GeneralPitt Rivers, and published by the Science and Art Department.[footnote]

[footnote] Since this was written General Pitt Rivers has offered his grand collection to the nation as a free gift, and I am ashamed and astounded to learn that it has been declined! The great men connected with the South Kensington institutions Huxley, Poynter, Cunliffe Owen, and others were felicitating themselves at this splendid acquisition, when this mysterious refusal came. Sir John Lubbock, as I write, is questioning the Government on the subject, and it is possible the outrageous folly may be checked. I regret to say there are indications that the cause of it is a certain jealousy that has sprung up in influential quarters at the prodigious growth of the South Kensington collections. For the moment they have managed to make the British Museum a sort of dog-in-the-manger. I cannot believe, however,that the country will consent that such jealousy shall become n contest so costly to itself. The incident I have just mentioned tempts me to strike out from this work some complimentary things I have written concerning the administration of the Science and Art Department; but the facts have not yet been publicly sifted, and I leave what is written in hope that the result of this strange affair may not turn all its admiration to satire.

p. 81

Various public men sent their treasures to the museum in its earlier days, when they were more needed than now ;but it has been found necessary to select fastidiously from the too numerous articles offered every year as loans.Many families owning valuable collections find it difficult to keep them in perfect safety, and more begin to realize that such articles should not be of private advantage.Some collections, originally received as loans, it is pretty certain will never be removed; andI am assured by the director that the museum has been notified of being remembered in many wills.This gentleman, Sir Philip Cunliffe Owen, and his predecessor, Sir Henry Cole, said to me, in conversation about the prospect of building museums in the American cities, that they had no doubt such institutions, if good and safe buildings were erected, would there as well as here find themselves centres of gravitation for the art treasures and curiosities owned by the community around them. This museum, though hardly out of its teens, has received seven great collections, worth collectively more than two million dollars; thirteen bequests, worth over half a million dollar;and a large number of donations whose aggregate money value is very great, though not yet estimated.

p. 86

The 17th of May, 1880, is an historic day in the annals of the museum. On that day was thrown open to the public its Indian section. A small collection of Indian curiosities has been long wandering from one place to another in London, and had finally been shelved at the very top of the India Office.So, at any rate, it was stated, and most persons were willing to accept the statement on faith by the time they reached the third story of that edifice.However, the collection steadily increased up there, and it was at length removed to some rooms at South Kensington. But there it attracted little attention from the public, though much from scholars, and it was publicly announced that it would be closed because it did not pay expenses.The authorities ultimately followed better counsels:they gave it up to the Direction of the South Kensington Museum. The Queen loaned it the magnificent collection of Oriental armor from Windsor Castle; Indian treasures hitherto dispersed through the other courts of the museum were gathered together in the new section; Dr. Leitner's collection of Graeco-Buddhist sculptures was added; the walls adorned with Carpenter's water-colors illustrative of Indian scenery and life ;and lo!London awaked one morning to find that it had a new and splendid institution, which the Queen and her family had visited the day before with "the greatest satisfaction."

 p. 107 and on Memorandum of regulations for the South Kensington school of art and design when John Sparkes was the Head-Master [with whom Pitt-Rivers corresponded to obtain help in securing suitable assistants]:

Head-Master, J. SPARKES.

Mechanical and Architectural Drawing, H. B. HAGREEN.

Geometry and Perspective, E. S. BURCKETT.

Painting, Free-hand Drawing of Ornament, etc., the Figure and Anatomy, and Ornamental Design, J. SPARKES, C. P. SLOCOMBE, T. CLACK, F. M. MILLER.

Modelling, M. LANTERE

Etching, A. LEGROS.

... 1. The courses of instruction pursued in the School have for their object the systematic training of teachers, male and female, in the practice of Art and in the knowledge of its scientific principles, with the view of qualifying them to impart to others a careful Art education, and to develop its application to the common uses of life and to  the requirements of Trade and Manufactures. Special courses are arranged in order to qualify School-masters ofElementary and other Schools to teach Elementary Drawing as a part of general education concurrently with writing.

2. The instruction comprehends the following subjects : Free-hand, Architectural, and Mechanical Drawing; PracticalGeometry and Perspective; Painting in Oil, Tempera, and Water-colors; Modelling, Moulding , and Casting. The Classes for Drawing, Painting, and Modelling include Architectural and other Ornament, Flowers, Objects of still-life, etc., the Figure from the Antique and the Life, and the study of Anatomy as applicable to Art.

3. The Annual Sessions, each lasting five months, commence on the 1st of March and the 1st of October, and end on the last day of July and the last day of February, respectively. Students can join the School at any time, the tickets running from date to date. The months of August and September, one week at Christmas, and one week at Easter or Whitsuntide, are Vacations. The classes meet every day except Saturday. Hours of Study : Day, 10 to 3 ;Evening, 7 to 9.

... FEES.

For classes studying for five whole days, including evenings : 5 for five months. For three whole days, including evenings: 4 for five months. For the half-day morning, 10 to 1 ; or afternoon, 1 to 3 : 4 for five months. To all these classes there is an entrance fee of 10s.

Evening Classes: Male School: 2 per session. Artisan Class: 10s. per session ; 3s. per month. Female School: 1 per session, three evenings a week.

No students can be admitted to these classes until they have passed an examination in Freehand Drawing of the 3d Grade. Examinations of candidates will be held weekly, at the commencement of each session, and at frequent intervals throughout the year.

Transcribed by AP December 2011

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