Popular Science Monthly/Volume 60/February 1902/Discussion and Correspondence

1411011Popular Science Monthly Volume 60 February 1902 — Discussion and Correspondence1902



To the Editor:—Professor E. Ray Lankester, director of the Museum of Natural History, London, concluded an address on 'The Scope and Functions of Museums' at the opening of a new wing of the Ipswich Museum on November 8 with the following words:

A county museum is not a place for children or school-teaching: it is not Noah's Ark or Madame Tussaud's waxworks, but a place for the delight of grown-up men and women. It should be full of the things which are the pride of those who care for the history and natural life of their countryside, and just as you do not use a picture gallery to teach the elements of drawing, but for the enjoyment of fine pictures, so your county museum must be for the enjoyment by your grown-up, educated people of the rarities of nature and of art, and not for the cramming of schoolboys and schoolgirls.

If a local museum is a place no better for school teaching than Madame Tussaud's 'chamber of horrors,' or if it only serves for the cramming of school-boys, so much the worse for the museum and its director. Neither has Professor Lankester a very high opinion of adult visitors, for in the same address he calls them 'innocent' and 'casual well-meaning.' Such sarcasm and assumption of superiority ill befits the director of a museum.

Surely a man who accepts a position such as the directorship of the British Museum of Natural History or the secretaryship of the Smithsonian Institution owes a definite duty to the public, and should not permit his impressions of his own dignity to interfere with the services for which he is paid.

Can you not, sir, secure for your excellent journal an article on 'The Scope and Functions of a Museum Director'?

A Teacher.