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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4

The Illustrated London News, 24th June 1876

The Illustrated London News, 24th June 1876.

We are glad to observe the interest which is being manifested in favour of the proposed erection, on the Thames Embankment, of an Imperial Museum for India and the colonies. It is one of the many signs which have appeared of late, showing the very different estimation in which colonial and Indian questions are held at the present moment, to what they were a few years ago. The reasons of this wholesome change in the public opinion are many; they are partly popular and sentimental, partly political and commercial. The improved means of communication and the greater convenience of travel have established a considerable personal intercourse between all the different parts of the British empire. The fashionable grand tour of the present day is a tour through the greater Britain, which almost encircles the globe. More recently, the visit of the Prince of Wales to India has strongly impressed the popular imagination; the political aspects of the connection between England and all its dependencies have likewise been of late more uniformly satisfactory. The success which has attended the confederation of the North American colonies, the favourable prospects of the scheme for the confederation of the South African colonies, and the vigour and resource shown by the Government of India in meeting the dreadful calamity of the Bengal famine, have all contributed to inspire the public with the belief that English statesmanship is equal to the task of dealing efficiently with all the different emergencies which such an extensive political dominion at all times involves, and that nothing but a hearty co-operation of all the different members of the empire is required in order to enable England to work out successfully its historical destiny. The steady and remarkable development of the commercial and financial relations between England and its possessions is at the same time calculated to bring home, even to those who are insensible to the political bearing of the question, the great material advantages which result from the connection between England and the colonies and India.

This is the main ground on which Dr. Forbes Watson bases his advocacy of an India and a Colonial Museum in London, which together would form an Imperial museum representing the whole empire. It is likewise on this ground that the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Colonial Institute, which have appointed a joint committee for the promotion of the two museums, expect a large measure of public support from the city of London, and from the commercial centres throughout the country, in their endeavours to raise the funds required for the purchase of the site proposed for the erection of the buildings. In view of the fact that at the present moment about one third of the whole trade of England is dependent upon India and the colonies, and that during the commercial depression of the last few years the trade of England with her own possessions has stood its ground far better than page 14 her trade with foreign countries, such an appeal should have a good chance of success.

Dr. Forbes Watson's plan, which seems to provide for all the requirements of the case, should be studied in detail in his own account of it; but its chief features as regards the Indian part of the scheme may be stated as follow:—
1.A combination of the present India Museum with the India Library, so as to bring together the products, manufactures, and antiquities contained in the museum, and the books, manuscripts, and publications in the library, and thus to unite within the same building the whole of the materials available in this country for the study of Indian literature, arts, sciences, and history, as well as for the investigation of the political, social, and commercial condition of the country.
2.Connection with the Royal Asiatic Society, whose meeting rooms should be in the same building with the museum and library.
3.The foundation of an Indian Institute for lectures, inquiry, and teaching, to be organised under the direction of the Royal Asiatic Society, and to appeal both to the public in general and to the more special wants of particular classes.
4.The preparation of sets of Trade Museums showing in a condensed form the essential facts referring to Indian products and manufactures, as well as to other special features of the country or the people. These collections should be distributed in England, in India, and in the colonies, so that every important commercial centre throughout the empire should share equally in their advantages.

The accompanying plan makes clear the favourable position of the proposed site, and its relative situation with regard to the other public institutions of London. Its advantages in this respect are unrivalled. Fronted by the public gardens on the Embankment on the one side, and by the recently opened Northumberland Avenue on the other, close to the Houses of Parliament, to the public offices, the clubs, the legal and the literary quarters, a museum in this position would be incomparably more useful to the public than the Indian collections, now temporarily placed in the South Kensington Exhibition Galleries, can ever be in that quarter, so far removed from the centres of public and of business life. The projected centralization, in the same building with the Colonial Museum, of the offices of the colonial and emigration agents, in itself necessitates the choice of a central site. On all these grounds we hope and believe that the two societies which have taken up the scheme will be enabled to bring it speedily to a successful issue. We may add that a preliminary meeting of the City friends of the undertaking is to be held, on Monday next, at the Cannon Street Hotel.