Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/642

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sults could be secured. It is obvious that the acquisitions can be more easily made through private persons who are in more immediate intercourse with the inhabitants of the special districts, than through state officers, who will be hampered by numerous reserves. It seems clear, therefore, that the best course for the immediate present will be to excite interest in the enterprise among the people themselves; and to secure the participation of friends of the scheme in the practical support of its promoters. The development of the older museums has been predominantly to the advantage of the representative arts. Even architecture has been crowded into the background after sculpture and painting. Industrial art has been very slowly and tardily recovered from oblivion. Those highest efforts of human skill, while they arouse the admiration of the observer, vitalize and elevate the understanding, excite it to imitation, and give direction to the activity of whole generations. They have thus become pre-eminently the criterion of civilization.

But civilization has never anywhere come up at once. Many generations have to apply their best force, through slow labor, to gain artistic skill and make it at home. A kind of hereditary transmission assures the continuance of progress in this field, and in case of long interruption the recovery of aims and methods once possessed. Not only, therefore, does the investigator, the real art-expert, give his attention to the study of the history of art, but the question also occurs to the simple man of the people—who may have made such a great discovery, and how, in the course of time, ever higher degrees of skill and understanding in art are mastered.

Two circumstances have hitherto given deep significance to these questions, and extended them far over the domain of pure art: First, the increasing knowledge of the efforts of savages. This began with the great discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but only obtained that fruitful significance in the general view which is now apparent to all with the scientific expeditions of the last century, especially with Cook's voyages and Alexander von Humboldt's researches. Who does not know that the course of civilization from its rudest beginnings to an often surprising height, lies visible as in an open book in the savages of to-day, and that the development of society, law, and religions, as well as the ordering of the household and the whole theory of property in household goods and ornaments, domestic animals and useful plants, may be observed, now here, now there, in their gradual building up? Unhappily, the savages are disappearing with fearful rapidity under contact with civilized races; and it may be considered fortunate that the increased care in the observation and collection of the things peculiar to these perishing sur-