PRESUMING that the object of a museum is twofold, viz., to instruct the general public through the eye and to serve as a repository of material by means of which specialists can carry on their scientific and historical researches, it must be obvious to every thoughtful observer how inadequate the machinery generally is to the end in view. A visitor, let us suppose, to the zoological department of a museum, observes a number of birds bearing a general family likeness, and a name under each specimen. Having no pictorial clue to the habits, native country, or specific distinctions of the numerous specimens, no verbal description before him, and no intelligent curator on the spot to give the information required, he goes away with a hazy impression of what he has seen, and too often with a headache. Surely there is room for improvement in the direction of the amount of information that could be conveyed by proper adjuncts to the specimens, and by grouping them according to the countries to which they belong, &c.? Many a missionary going abroad would gladly learn something of the economical and medicinal products of the country to which he is going; but in a museum in which vegetable products are grouped according to their natural orders his difficulties are increased tenfold. I can imagine no better means of improving the character of museums and of increasing their usefulness than a conference of curators to exchange ideas and the results of their experience. With regard to the use of musems by those seeking special information, the circumstances are very different in large cities and in small towns. In cities, as a rule, the curator naturally becomes in time the depository of a large amount of special information, for which there is such a demand that time is rarely left him for the manual labour and supervision which the keeping of a museum in good order involves. In this case it is assistance that is required rather than increase of salary, although a curator should in my opinion be so well paid that he need not be obliged to resort to literary work to eke out a living.
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HOLMES, E. Museum Conference. Nature 22, 10 (1880). https://doi.org/10.1038/022010a0
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