Outlying Museums of the Empire


    THE great survey of the museums of the Empire, conceived by Sir Henry Miers and S. F. Markham, has now been completed by them with the assistance of Dr. F. A. Bather, T. Sheppard and others. The final reports, on the museums in scattered outliers of the British Empire, bring to a close a series of surveys which has reviewed more than a thousand museums and art galleries. For the accomplishment and success of these surveys, as well as to the surveyors, credit must be awarded to the Carnegie Corporation of New York which financed the inquiries, and to the Museums Association which acted as general headquarters and under the name of which the reports have been published. Along with the reports proper (bound in paper covers), there are issued (bound in cloth, as if for much service) a directory of the museums in Australia and New Zealand and another of those in the scattered islands of the Empire, compilations the merit of which makes it certain that from this starting-point the progress of these museums will be measured. The condition of the isolated and island museums is the most unsatisfactory revealed by the Empire Survey. “The reason may be possibly historic, possibly psychological, but whatever the cause all observers agree that the islands of the British Empire present one of the most difficult problems in the realm of cultural services.” Yet from the reports it is clear, and one's own knowledge of their publications confirms, that in places excellent scientific work has been done, as in the Raffles Museum at Singapore or the Sarawak Museum at Kuching. But in most places valuable scientific material is disappearing with little attempt at collection and conservation, simply because finances are inadequate. Exhibited collections suffer from the same inadequacies of money and staff, though the fact that in several of the places illiterate natives form (as in Colombo) an overwhelming proportion of the museum visitors, must tend to discourage the utmost effort at arrangement, since neither English nor vernacular labels are understood. Yet these natives get pleasure and interest from the exhibits themselves.

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