S&SWM PR papers P136a

P136a and P136d [2 identical versions]

Science and Art Department | South Kensington | 3rd June 1881 | E.M. 2911/ 81


I am directed by the Lords of the Committee of Council on Education to acquaint you that their Lordships have had under consideration the report of the Committee appointed to advise them in reference to the liberal proposal you have made with regard to your Ethnological Collection now being exhibited in the galleries belonging to the Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 on the Western side of the Horticultural Gardens.

The report in question proves the value and interesting nature of the Collection and recommends that it should become the property of the Nation.

Their Lordships whilst accepting the conclusions at which the Committee have arrived, are however, compelled for the following reasons to decide that it is not possible for them to accept the Collection for permanent exhibition in connection with the Department for Science and Art.

In the first place the space which the Collection at present occupies has to be relinquished by the Department and there is no other space now at Their Lordships disposal, or likely to be provided elsewhere, in which the Collection could be placed.

It is however chiefly on other grounds than want of space that My Lords have felt it incumbent on them to decline the custody of the Collection. Ethnology is not now represented in the collections of the South Kensington Museum and it is undesirable to commence a collection with special reference to this branch of Science while there is in another National Establishment, the British Museum, a large collection of a similar kind.

It has been represented to Their Lordships that your Collection is arranged on a different system to that adopted at the British Museum and that as shewing the development of [insert] form and [end insert] shape it would constitute an appropriate part of a museum like that at South Kensington, which is intimately connected with Education in General and Industrial Art. Admitting to some extent the force of this argument it, nevertheless, appears to My Lords that your Collection if the Trustees of the British Museum should be willing and able to accept it, would not in any way interfere with that already contained in that Museum, but on the contrary, would increase the interest of the Ethnological specimens which it now possesses.

My Lords feel strongly the inexpediency of national museums competing against each other, and wish that so far as possible, a distinct line should be drawn between the collections at South Kensington and those at the British Museum. Each should be made as perfect as possible, but should occupy different ground.

My Lords must add a few words as to the question of expense, although you have liberally proposed to keep up the Collection mainly at your own charge during your life-time, the whole cost of its maintenance would eventually devolve on the Department which accepts your offer. This might lead to heavy expenditure for a Curator, attendants, further purchases, cases &c, and the Collection would require an amount of space not only large in itself, but out of proportion to that which they can ever hope to be able to set aside for other Branches of Science of more immediate practical and educational use. The expenditure would be exceptionally large at the South Kensington Museum, where there is at present no one connected with Ethnological Science on the Establishment; and after you had relinquished the management, it would be necessary to secure the services of a gentleman, with special qualifications for [insert] the care of [end insert] this valuable Collection.

My Lords throughly appreciate the liberality and public spirit which have prompted you to make the offer, whilst they regret that they are unable to take advantage of it on behalf of the Department of Science and Art.

I am,
Your obedient servant,
(signed) F.R. Sandford

General Pitt-Rivers | &c &c

Transcribed by AP

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