The Value of Natural History Museums

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WELL-arranged museums are valuable to the state in many ways. The technological department ought to show in what new directions capital may and may not be invested; the geological and mineralogical should point out in what kind of rock and in what parts of the earth's crust ores and minerals are to be sought, and should save the expenditure of money in useless trials. The museum of the Royal School of Mines in Jermyn Street performs these functions. But they are valuable in a still higher sense as encouraging a love of knowledge for its own sake apart from any selfish aims. The visitors to the British Museum, however frivolous they may be, leave it all the better for having been there. It is impossible that they should not carry away some sort of idea, which otherwise would not have occurred to them, even if it be merely the recognition that outside their daily lives there is a world of knowledge vast and indefinite, but real and tangible. In this respect museums are educators of the masses, offering them a means of culture which would otherwise be out of their reach. And lastly, as instruments of training in natural history they are, as I have already observed, as necessary to the student as collections of books to the student in arts.

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DAWKINS, W. The Value of Natural History Museums . Nature 16, 98 (1877) doi:10.1038/016098a0

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