S&SWM PR papers L2096a

Rushmore | Salisbury | May 23rd, 1898

Dear Mr Rudler,

I must write a line to congratulate you on being President of the Anthropological Institute, which you have so long taken an interest in, and done good work.

I read your paper in the Museums Association, in which I agree mostly, though I am still in favour of an arrangement by Arts for a local Museum. I hardly think that the system has been favourably tried at Oxford. Mr Tylor and Mr Balfour have done their best no doubt, but they do not have the means, the materials, or the funds to work the system thoroughly, and I soon found out that it was quite impossible that a method commenced by one person should be worked out effectually by others. Some of the series have not been developed a all, and others very imperfectly. The whole collection was out of sight for a long time, 5 years I think, whilst the building was being erected, and my health has not allowed me to go there much since. It is not the kind of building for a developmental collection, which would be better in low long galleries well lighted from above and without pretension; the large and lofty interior space was not wanted. Rolleston and Moseley were the heads when I gave the collection to Oxford, and Tylor, though the best man possible for Sociology, had at that time but little knowledge of the material arts. Balfour, though hard-working, does not, I believe, know fully to this day what the original design of the collection was in some cases. I do not however complain of the men. They have done their best to carry out the idea which was an original one at that time, and circumstances have been against it. Oxford was not the place for it, and I should never have sent it there if I had not been ill at the time and anxious to find a resting-place for it of some kind in the future. I have always regretted it, and my new museum at Farnham, Dorset, represents my views on the subject much better. I shall write a paper about it before long if I live. I have just completed a new Gallery, which is now finished and the whole Museum is being re-arranged.

I have however changed my views somewhat. The question is, as you say in your paper, whether the primary arrangement should be geographical or by Arts. What is the chief requirement of a Museum? Firstly, it must be for the instruction of the visitors, and secondly, it should serve as a store for savants in building up their theories, and for promoting accuracy in research. I think the primary divisions should not be too small. In my new Museum, which is of course a local one, I have two galleries devoted to Art, ornament and decoration, all in one. The sub-sections are Geographical. These sub-sections are separated by red tapes hanging vertically down the shelves thus:-




Polynesian Is.













In this way, the visitor is able to contrast much more quickly the style of art of different countries, than if he had to pick his subjects out of miscellaneous collections, in which all the products of each different country are mixed together.

Another primary division consists of the Pottery of all countries, subdivided geographically. This of course clashes somewhat with the art division, pottery being a branch of art. Another consists of tools and weapons, in which the whole history of stone, bronze and iron are displayed. Another is Glass, another Enamels. the [sic] main object of all Museums must be, in these days, to show development. Where the forms of one country fit on to those of another country in such a way as to prove connection, they should be arranged together. A too rigid adherence to system should be avoided. It is not the system, but instruction, which should be the main object, and whatever conduced best and most quickly to that object should be adopted, in subordination to the material at the disposal of the collector, which always must influence the arrangement most importantly. Franks was, at first, very much opposed to my arrangement by Arts, and really had a good deal to do with getting it banished to Oxford, but it ended, as you know, in his having a special gallery in the B.M. for the religious objects of all nations, another for glass, another for pottery, &c., which is still the arrangement. Franks, notwithstanding this antagonism, was a friend of mine and very liberal in giving information from the vast stack of knowledge which he possessed on all such matters. I always took a malicious pleasure in congratulating him upon the admirable arrangement of these latter Galleries, when he generally gave a grunt, as his custom was, and trudged off, but only to be as communicative as ever the next time I saw him.

Your Museum in Jermyn Street, I consider to be arranged on the same system. It is for the purpose, if I understand it rightly, of showing the products of the soil applied to the arts, and is subordinate to that idea; and I cannot help thinking that ultimately this system will be further extended, and Museums, especially local Museums, will arrange with each other to specialize and confine themselves to particular branches of the industrial arts, ethnography, anthropology &c. Each small Museum will serve as a sub-section of one General Scheme by mutual agreement. The advantage will be generally recognized and the public will instruct themselves by going from one Museum to another. Very large Museums really confuse the public very much. It is only savants who can go direct to the part they want, and study it. The casual visitor becomes moe and more bewildered, not knowing whereabouts he is, or what is implied by the arrangement of the different sections. Small maps of course are indispensable for the public; I have always used them from the first. Careful ticketting and describing goes without saying. In the British Museum, the Nation appears really to forget that the instruction of the public, our Lords and Masters, is the main object of a National Museum, and that descriptions, side by side with the objects exhibited, goes home to the uneducated mind more rapidly than any amount of reading and illustrations in books, which the public can never be expected to take up, not having the time or the materials for it. The staff of the B.M. should be largely increased in ticket-writers, and the space for tickets enlarged. We are hanging fire altogether in any endeavour to inculcate a knowledge of evolution, the great work of our time, the most beneficial for the public to be well imbued in every branch of human activity, Art, Science, Legislation, Religion, Education, everything.

I am still impressed with the idea I ventured to put forward at a meeting of the British Association some time ago, that for a national or large town Museum, a Rotunda with the things arranged in concentric circles and radii would be the best; and that casts are quite as useful as originals for educational purposes; but we are far away from that at present, and it is no use talking of it.

One point, however, which I hope you will some day see in my Farnham Museum, is the models of excavations, which I sometimes call a Museum of "gisement". I am satisfied that we often fail to derive all the information we might from imperfect records of discoveries. The same site, a camp, a tumulus, a cemetery, often, indeed generally, contain relics of different periods which can only be distinguished by attention to soil, the strata, the deposits in which the things are found. A few inches only may separate things of very different dates, and careful models with contoured surfaces to show the original form of earthworks, nearly always obliterated by the excavations, can only record these distinctions properly. I have been much struck lately with the bold way in which dates are given to antiquities, without the slightest particle of evidence derived from stratification or deposits.

In Archaeology we are sometimes in very much the condition that Geology would be if we discarded all the evidence derived from sedimentary desposits. Archaeology most certainly is not a science yet. Many archaeologists will take no notice of anything which is not pretty to look at. Such a thing as the pattern on a small fragment of pottery which affords the best evidence conceivable of date, will be set aside as rubbish or thrown out of consideration, through the impossibility of marking its position with sufficient clearness in paper plans and sections.

I have over 100 models of Excavations in my Farnham Museum, but they are only appreciated by a very few, who come from a distance. Upon the British plough-boy, they are quite thrown away, and even the tradesman amongst the 10,000 who visited the Museum last year have little time or inclination to study them thoroughly, though mark you, tradesmen, mechanics and small towns-people are far more ready in taking in exact knowledge than the upper classes in the country. Precision and accuracy is necessary for them in their ordinary business, whilst Ladies and Gentlemen are bored with it, especially in the details of archaeological investigations, which they take little interest in. Still, with a good system of models, the information is there, and perhaps one or two per cent of the visitors will take advantage of it. But is only in local Museums that this could be done, where [insert in handwriting] in which [end insert] the models relate to excavations made in the immediate neighbourhood. In large Museums it would take too many models, unless confined to the most important subjects.

I have told my clerk to type this, to save you the trouble of reading my cramped hand; I am obliged to write a good deal from bed now, and am not able to walk more than a few yards, though I go on with excavations near here where I can sit and look on. I have just finished a fourth volume of Excavations, which I will send you. I hope you are well.

Yours very truly,


Transcribed by AP for the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project in July-August 2011

prm logo