HC Deb 13 July 1840 vol 55 cc698-700
Sir R. Peel

proposed that 29,953l. be granted for the estimate for the British Museum for the year ending on the 31st of March, 1841. There was a very full detail of the mode in which this sum was to be expended in the printed paper on the table, and therefore he did not think it necessary to do more than to move this vote; but he should be glad to give any explanation that any hon. Gentleman might require.

Mr. Hawes

did not object to the amount of this vote; on the contrary, it was for the maintenance of so important and useful an institution, that he most readily assented to it. At the same time, he could not help feeling that this great national institution might be improved by forming a board according to the recommendation of a committee of the heads of the several departments, by whom it might be considered what improvements might be made therein. He also thought it objectionable to close the King's library, to the public, merely on the ground that too much dust was created by persons walking through it. Again, the public paid, as appeared in the estimates, for the moulds and casts made from the antique marbles in the Museum, and as these were presented to foreign museums, and he saw no reason why casts should not be presented to the schools of design which had been established in various parts of the country. At present these casts could be procured at a cheaper rate from Paris, paying the duty, than they could be obtained in London. He did not see the use of having two sentinels standing at the entrance to the Museum. Mr. Hallam, stated in a note to his Constitutional History of England, that nothing could be more uncongenial to the feelings or more alien to the objects of the institution than to see sentinels stationed at the entrance to the British Museum and to our exhibitions of pictures.

Sir R. Peel

declared that it was the object of the trustees to give every accommodation to the public consistent-with the preservation of the books and the property. As to the holidays, the whole of these which the officers enjoyed were six days in January, six days in May, and six days in September, with Ash-Wednesday, Good-Friday, and days of fast and thanksgiving. It had been suggested, by a committee of that House, that the heads of the subordinate departments should meet quarterly to consider the details in those departments, so as to suggest an improvement in them. It was in the British Museum, as in every other public department, that every one was proud of that portion with which he was connected, and most anxious to set it off to the greatest advantage. He thought, then, that the calling of them together for the purpose of making suggestions, would not be the best way of making an arrangement. The trustees received suggestions separately from the heads of the departments, and then decided upon them; while the determination of subordinate officers, if acted upon, would, he feared, only lead to an increase in the building, and a large addition to the public expense. As to the casts, it was his opinion that they should not make many of them; but then on the other hand, he did not think that they ought to expend the public money in making casts. Last year they had asked the Government for 800l. to make models, and they gained 500l. As to the sentinels being stationed at the British Museum, he must say that he had not seen Mr. Hallam shudder since he had been appointed a trustee. With respect to the King's library, concerning which a committee of the House of Commons had advised that an accurate catalogue should be made, he must say that it was very difficult to proceed with it without interfering with the time that was allowed to the public. He could assure hon. Members that it was the desire of the trustees to adopt every prudent suggestion that was made to them.

Vote agreed to, as was a vote of 22,000l. for the purpose of carrying into effect the recommendation of the commissioners of naval and military inquiry, and votes for the Supplementary Ordnance Estimates.