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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4

The Echo, 12th June 1876

The Echo, 12th June 1876.

The local agitation against the proposal to erect the Indian and Colonial Museums upon the Victoria Embankment seems to have been premature. From the letter of Dr. Forbes Watson, which will be found in another column, it will be seen that there was no intention on the part of the Government of utilizing the site near the Savoy for this purpose, as was feared by the inhabitants of that district. But had such an intention existed, we fail to appreciate fully the grounds for the alarm which the mere rumour appears to have excited. It is, no doubt, desirable that the project for the construction of an approach to the Embankment through the Savoy, should not be defeated, and therefore we can sympathise with the inhabitants in their efforts to resist every proposal which contemplates the abandonment of that scheme. To some extent, also, we are ready to admit that they were not acting unreasonably in opposing the transfer of the Mint from Tower Hill to the Savoy. On sanitary grounds they may have had some justification for their policy. But if the residents have resolved to oppose the construction of any Government buildings on the site in question, being actuated by purely local considerations, we fear that they cannot hope to carry popular opinion with them. The advantages offered by the Embankment for the erection of public buildings thereon are too great to be outweighed by any arguments except those affecting the public health and convenience. Dr. Forbes Watson however, states that, in the present instance, the agitation was altogether unnecessary. The proposal of the Government is to erect the India and Colonial Museums, not on the Savoy site, but on the old site at Whitehall, near Northumberland Avenue. The position will be central and exceedingly convenient. Anything, almost, is preferable to the concentration of all the national collections at South Kensington. Besides being inaccessible there to a large number of the inhabitants of the metropolis, the removal of one collection after another to that aristocratic region has been regarded with strong feelings of jealousy. If museums are to be page 13 anything more than fashionable lounges, if they are to be looked upon as the means of educating and improving the tastes and habits of the people, they must be situated where the people can get at them. The remarkable success which has attended the opening of the Bethnal Green Museum is a proof that the artisan and labouring classes are not unwilling to avail themselves of these opportunities for improvement if they are only brought within their reach.