HL Deb 12 March 1919 vol 33 cc641-68

LORD SUDELEY rose to call attention to the great success which has attended the introduction of the system of providing official guide-lecturers for the museums and picture galleries which are under the control of the Government; and to move—

That, having regard to its great importance to the general public and to schools of all descriptions, and especially in view of the presence in London of many visitors from overseas, His Majesty's Government should without further delay reinstate the system, which with one exception has been in abeyance during the war, making such addition to the numbers and in the salaries and status of the guides as may be found necessary.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in calling your attention to this subject I desire first to express my very great regret that I was obliged on two or three occasions to postpone the Motion which I had on the Paper, because I know there were several noble Lords who were anxious to take part in the discussion, and I am afraid the postponement was most inconvenient to them. I regret also that when Lord Gainford's Question was discussed in the House two weeks ago I was unable to bring my Motion forward. In the discussion upon his Question, to which Lord Harcourt spoke, it was explained very fully what was the cause of the long delay in removing the Government Departments from the various museums. That question, of course, is very closely connected with the one in which I am specially interested. If there is no space there can be no guides. Fortunately, however, there are, I believe, in nearly all the museums plenty of opportunities and plenty of space for the different lectures to be held. In the Wallace Museum, which Lord Harcourt stated had absolutely closed, and also in the case of the Tate Gallery, the guide-lecturers, of course, cannot be appointed. But I hope that before long the Government will take steps so that the space may be no longer curtailed.

I wish to remind your Lordships of the great success of the guide-lecture system, and I am anxious also to show you the urgent necessity for educational purposes why they should be re-instituted, and I would further call your attention to the large number of soldiers from the Dominions and visitors from overseas who are now in this country. Before the year 1911, when, the guide system was started, the general public knew very little about museums. They looked upon them as great depositories of learning, science, and art—all surrounded by a considerable amount of mystery; places where students used to go and obtain information, but where the general public thought it was absolutely impossible to profit easily by the facilities there available. In those days the taxpayers knew nothing whatever of their own property, and educationists had in very few instances discovered how much museums might help in education.

In 1911 the trustees of the British Museum thought that they ought to see how far it would be possible to popularise museums. They started the scheme of having a guide-lecturer and arrangements for giving popular lectures twice a day. In the first year it was so successful that they determined to start it the following year in the Natural History Museum. That again was a very great success, and from that time onwards until the war the system spread rapidly to all other museums—the National Gallery, and the other art galleries, as well as Kew Gardens. The plan adopted was to exhibit a programme in the hall, stating where the lectures were to be held, and the programme was made out for several days. Free lectures lasting about an hour were given, one at 12 o'clock and one at 3 o'clock, and there were also a certain number of private lectures. The official guide-lecturers were very well selected, and it was owing to their admirable and popular way of lecturing that the scheme was such a great success. Many of them were gentlemen of great intelligence and position. I remember on one occasion that a large company of French people desired to have a lecture, and it was arranged in the British Museum that the chief lecturer should lecture in French, and it was exceedingly well done.

A few years ago—I think in 1914—when this matter came up, the late Lord Redesdale said that it would be absolutely impossible to work the system well, that a certain number of people might be obtained to attend the lectures in one or two galleries, but that there would be a great difficulty in getting lectures in all the galleries in view of the numerous and varied subjects which the contents of the museums suggested. He said that it was quite impossible. I ventured to doubt whether he was right. I said it was already found in the British Museum that a guide-lecturer was able to give lectures in two or three subjects, and that it would be likely to spread. You will be astounded to hear that not only was that found to be the case but the guide-lecturers before the war in the British Museum lectured in every gallery and every museum; two of them were sufficiently competent to do that. The lecturers say, "We have to lecture twice a day, sometimes three times, and occasionally four times a day. We do that for an hour each time, and it is very tiring work—almost impossible to manage for any length of time. But if we had to lecture continually in one or two galleries it would be absolutely impossible; the monotony would be so terrible. Take the case of the Egyptian mummies. Fancy having to lecture the whole week on that subject. We should go mad one after the other." Therefore your Lordships will see the difficulty in regard to the selection and obtaining of the guides. I mention this because I want to show the necessity that exists for altering the position of these guides. They have come to be looked upon as superior men. They are lecturers qualified for their purpose in every possible way. But it is not necessary that they should be experts. What is wanted are popular lectures in every sense of the word, free from technicalities. It may be that in some cases a certain amount of the lecturing may be superficial, but there is no objection to that. What we want is to enable the large number of people who go round with the lecturers to have an amount of general information conveyed to them in a practical and simple way.

The results of these lecturers in a few years preceding the war were wonderful. No fewer than 140,000 people went round with the guide-lecturers in the various museums and galleries, and at Kew Gardens. I myself have often been round with them and have watched the delight with which the parties of people have lecturers to the lecturers, and I have beard them express their pleasure at having things explained to them in such a charming manner instead of their being left to wander aimlessly about the places. We owe a debt of gratitude to the trustees of the British Museum. The most rev. Primate, the chairman of the principal trustees, has shown great determination in this connection. The trustees have conveyed their wishes to the Director, Sir Frederick Kenyon. Sir Frederick has had the practical working of the whole system in his hands, and it is owing to his efforts that the enormous amount of success has been obtained. I know that he is as enthusiastic as anybody in regard to the great benefits which have arisen from these lectures. The British Museum people, after the institution of the lectures, found the galleries in a totally different position from that in which they previously were. Contented and happy people went round looking at the exhibits with a great deal of knowledge, most of them having been round with the guides, and they were working up the various subjects in which they were interested. Unfortunately the war stopped every development, and in many ways it was difficult to carry on. In 1916, as your Lordships are aware, it was the determination of the Government to close all the museums, and it was only through very great pressure being brought to bear that the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum were saved. This latter institution is, of course, closely connected with the manufacture, production, and design of various commodities, and it was found impossible to close it. Unfortunately, however, the Treasury conceived it to be their duty to save the expense of the guide-lecturers, but the Director, Sir Cecil Smith, a man of very great ability, knew the enormous advantage of these lectures being continued and determined that they should be carried out in some way or other. He was, I am glad to say, able to make arrangements with the ladies of the Art Teaching Guild and one gentleman, who all gave their services voluntarily, and the lectures were carried out in an admirable fashion, no fewer than 14,000 visitors going round with these voluntary lecturers during the past two years.

I mention this for two reasons, I want to show your Lordships that, wherever the system has been worked by people intimately connected with the museum, it has been approved of and liked immensely. Your Lordships know the enormous amount of good that has been done during the war by the Natural History Museum. That matter has been referred to in the House on a previous occasion, and I will not waste your time by going into it again. The point I want to refer to is with regard to the official guides. The official guide was retained in this museum, though it is true that a certain amount of his salary was knocked off, but that was arranged for and he was able to carry out his work satisfactorily. Some 500 officers and men from the camouflage schools obtained instruction at this institution in natural history mimicry in connection with the concealment of guns, and so forth. Besides that, the official guide carried out a regular system of two lectures a day to a large number of people. He also gave constant lectures to many wounded soldiers and to several New Zealand, Australian, and Canadian soldiers and sailors, and to men from the United States Forces. All these men were loud in their praise and most grateful for what was done. May I mention, while on this topic of the Natural History Museum, that in this museum alone during the seven years that lectures have been given there, 80,000 people have gone round with these lecturers. I think that is a very considerable statement. If it was found that the Dominion soldiers and visitors from overseas were so pleased with the information they got at the Natural History Museum, why should not the same things he extended everywhere at once? You have in London alone thousands of soldiers from the Dominions and a large number of people from overseas, who are waiting here anxious to get a vessel home; but what they want is to have the means of going over our great museums and our great galleries with comfort and guidance. It is a unique thing for them to be over here, and probably they will not have the opportunity again in their lifetimes.

Is it right then, for the sake of a very small amount of money, to refrain from appointing proper guides everywhere? Why should we condemn these visitors to wander aimlessly and not have the kindly guidance which they get in the Natural History Museum? It may be said "That is a reason which is good undoubtedly for the moment, but before long all these people will have gone back to their own countries, and how, therefore, can you argue that that is a reason why the whole system should be reinstated?" There is another reason of a far more enduring character, and of very special importance. It is the question of education. Before the closing of the British Museum the authorities were in negotiation with the London County Council for special arrangements to be made, so that the latter's school teachers might obtain instruction from the various guide-lecturers which would enable the teachers to impart their knowledge to the schoolchildren. I ought to mention, perhaps, that although the negotiations were not completed there was a large number of these school teachers taken round the British Museum every Saturday, and receiving instruction, and that a great many children were also taken round the museum.

The truth is that it is only quite recently that the education authorities have thoroughly grasped the fact that it is an enormous help to education if the children are occasionally taken round the museums. Experience has shown that the visits of children to obtain concrete knowledge of actual facts help very much to sharpen the brain, stimulate the intelligence, and work off a great deal of that horrible monotony and brain fag which children find in their classes. It is a very great subject. You must remember that even in this metropolis there are no fewer than 750,000 children in the elementary schools, and this matter applies not only to the elementary schools but to the art schools, private schools, and in fact every school. I think that the reasons I have given are conclusive as to the advisability and urgent necessity of re-establishing the system of guide-lecturers.

But, my Lords, what I have said is, of course, my own view of the matter, and I have given you returns and tried to prove the case. I thought, it very likely, however, that I might he able to obtain the opinion of perhaps the greatest authority in the world—namely, that of Sir Frederick Kenyon, Director of the British Museum, who, as I said earlier in the evening, has conducted this system from its commencement. He has practical knowledge of the work. I wrote to him to say that I was bringing the subject forward in this House, and that I should like to hear his candid opinion which I might quote to your Lordships. It is so very important that, at the risk of wearying your Lordships, I will read extracts from the letter. He says— I believe strongly in the utility of guide lecturers, and consider their employment to be necessary if the nation is to get full value for the Museums' picture galleries that it maintains. The experience of the years before the war conclusively established the popularity of the guide-lecturers and their educational utility. The trustees of the British Museum are anxious to resume the service at the earliest possible moment, and if possible to extend it. Nearly 90,000 members of the public visited our two museums in January, among them being a large proportion of soldiers from the Oversea Dominions, but they need guides if they are to get full value for their visits. The only difficulty is financial. The rate paid before the war is no longer a fair payment for men with the special gifts of education, tact, and power of exposition required. The trustees contemplate a considerable extension of it. Before the war they were in communication with the educational authorities of the London County Council with a view to enabling the official guides to give instruction to school teachers, who in turn would impart it to their classes. In a similar fashion the Museum could assist the schools of art throughout London and could co-operate with other educational organisations. The organ of co-operation in each case would be an extended system of guide-lecturers. I am sure your assistance in promoting this work would be welcomed by the trustees. I think that letter is perfectly conclusive, even if I had not said another word.

I am told that the Government have determined to acquiesce to a certain extent in this suggestion as to the re-establishment of the guides. They know the value of the system, and have determined to go forward to a certain extent. I hear—and I hope that the noble Lord who will reply to-night will state it also—that the British Museum guides will be re-established as soon as possible, and that they are to have better salaries and improved positions. I hope that this is right, and that before long full and proper arrangements may be made. That, however, is only part of the suggestion. What I want is that the whole matter should be speeded up. Why should we wait? Surely this ought to be done at once? What they think correct in the British Museum case ought to be at once agreed to in the case of the National Gallery and the other great galleries and museums and Kew Gardens.

In the letter which I have quoted one extract refers to the financial question. The financial question does not arise. That is, it is not necessary to consider it—it is only a few hundred pounds—when you are talking of a matter in which great educational interests are concerned. This, I apprehend, is a very large subject, far more so than one is apt to think at first. The question is bow you are to obtain the best value out or your great museums and your great galleries, which represent an asset to the nation which has been put on many occasions at a sum far exceeding £80,000,000. You have found out a plan by which a large number of our people have obtained the means of great pleasure, great interest, and great information. These people have the right to what they are now getting. Every educationist will tell you that you have found a means of obtaining great help in carrying out your new Education Act. Surely with these reasons before you should at once do your utmost to re-instate, to encourage and to enlarge the spheres of these lectures.

In conclusion, I will only say that I cannot help thinking that, if this is carried through on a large scale, you will derive before very long an enormous advantage from it, and as the years go on it will add immensely to the happiness and prosperity of this country. I thank your Lordships very much for having heard me. I am greatly interested in this question, and I believe there is a very great deal in it. I hope the most rev. Primate, who knows an immense deal about the subject, will speak and confirm what I have ventured to say. I should like to add also that the Question which was raised only two weeks ago by Lord Gainford and Lord Harcourt is very much to the point in regard to this matter. The idea throughout the country is that the Government have not much sympathy with museums or galleries; that they do not realise the enormous importance of them. Your Lordships will remember that only a year ago an attempt was made to turn the British Museum into public offices for the Air Board. This was only abandoned because the whole of the educational societies of England rose against it, and the Government realised the fact that they were the trustees of a great national museum and that this ought not to be. If the Government, in reply, will express words of sympathy sand show that the impression to which I have referred is a wrong impression, I am sure it will do great good. I trust that before long we shall have the whole of this system re-established on a proper scale. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That, having regard to its great importance to the general public and to schools of all descriptions, and especially in view of the presence in London of many visitors from overseas, His Majesty's Government should without further delay reinstate the system of providing official guide-lecturers for the museums and picture galleries under the control of the Government, which with one exception has been in abeyance during the war, making such addition to the numbers and in the salaries and status of the guides as may be found necessary.—(Lord Sudeley.)


My Lords, the country, I am quite sure, owes a great deal to the noble Lord, not only for the lucid way in which he has put before us to-night a subject of real importance—of more far-reaching importance than is commonly appreciated—but further because of the stimulus which he is constantly giving to the extension of the effort to popularise our museums in the way which has been described to-night. I know something about this matter, because I have been for thirty-five years a member of the standing committee of the British Museum and have attended it with fair regularity, sometimes constantly. For a great many years I have watched the growth of the spirit of which this is one expression.

I believe that we possess in London some of the finest museums—in some respects the finest—in the world, but that we have failed to rise to the possibilities which are ours, not with regard to the use of these places for research and science, but with regard to bringing their treasures popularly and helpfully home to the minds of outside people who desire to visit them and learn from them. We have plenty of people who amuse themselves by going in. We have far too few who realise that they can have the opportunity of learning, when they are there, to understand a little, even elementarily, about the treasures which the museums contain. The contrast between the way in which our museums are used and the way in which some of the museums in America are used is patent to any one who has, on the spot, compared the two. The system of exposition, both by men and women, is developed there to a degree that we certainly have not shown at present, and I desire, on the lines that the noble Lord has spoken of to-night, to see that extension very much more marked among ourselves.

Nothing can be more pathetic—especially at this time when we have many visitors from across the seas, many men who have served in the Army, or men who, for other reasons, are at this moment at liberty to visit the museums—nothing can be more pathetic than to watch on week-days or Sunday afternoons (when they are even more numerous) the aimless way in which people pass through galleries which are crowded with matters of the supremest possible interest, and the way in which any expounder, even of the most amateurish kind, who will say a few words in front of a case to describe its contents, finds an audience around him in a few minutes, eager to appreciate his words. It does not seem to me to be excusable that we should have these incomparable. treasures, which are capable of being made practically interesting to an audience of tens of thousands, and that people should loaf about at present without knowing their interest, when we have learned various ways in which it might be done.

I think we have done to some extent—I do not say we have done all we might have done, but we have tried by stages to do—what is possible to extend interest; in the Museum. It is not a great many years since the guide books, now so popular, were published in their present form. There is now an immense sale, not only in London but elsewhere, of the guide books of the British Museum. They are not the catalogues, which are for learned people, but guide books which are for the unlearned. They are very cheap, they are admirably illustrated, and they are perfectly within the comprehension of any English man or woman, boy or girl, who would try to make use of them. Great advantage would be derived from these guide books if, either before going to the museum or in the museum itself—the former is the better way—visitors would take the trouble to understand a little of the outline of what they are going to see. They will find of great value the guide book placed in their hands at the cost of a few pence. I am holding one in my hand now. They are admirable in arrangement and interesting in illustrations, and they are purchaseable in the museum or elsewhere. These guide books are improving in quality, and we are learning better how to make them what they ought to be.

It sounds prosaic, but really the very essence of the Museum arrangements is an adequate labelling at sufficient length. Professor Flower, who was, I suppose, the very best man for work of that kind that we have ever had in any of our museums, used to say—it sounded like a paradox—that a well-arranged museum has been defined as a collection of instructive labels illustrated by well-selected specimens. No doubt many of your Lordships have been to the Natural History Museum, which he arranged, and any one who has been there will see how the learner is able to read the admirable type at the end of the case (a little exposition of what it contains) and then is told to look at specimens 14, 15, or 18, which he will find even without the help of a guide or a guide book. On occasions one sees intelligent children making use of these labels, which shows how accurate was the way in which Sir William Flower described it a good many years ago.

Guide books and labels are excellent, but they yield in effectiveness to the action of personal guide-lecturers. During the years in which we have been allowed to have these guide-lecturers taking people round the result has been so remarkable that it seems to me amazing that more effort is not made to extend their usefulness at the small cost described by the noble Lord. A few hundred pounds a year would obtain the services of men and women (ladies make very competent guide-lecturers) who would be, perhaps, better than an expert, as an expert is apt in some cases to talk above the heads of the people he is addressing. That is not, of course, the case with all experts, such as Professor Huxley; but, speaking generally, what we want is a man with a lucid power of exposition, a mastery of the subject in its outlines at least, and one who is able to put before those who crowd around him an exposition of what is there seen.

We have at this moment the experience of pre-war years to show how this system of lecturers was growing in usefulness year after year, month after month. I have here a programme showing to what good use a fortnight could be put, how each day of the week a particular gallery could be visited, how if a person desired he could arrange to take, consecutively, different galleries, and how a consecutive course could be arranged in a particular gallery it was desired to study. With a little care in studying a programme it could be made into a course of lectures of the most interesting kind. They are also useful for ordinary visitors. The noble Lord mentioned that in January of this year there wore 90,000 visitors to the British Museum. I wonder how many came away with any intelligent idea of what they had seen. I believe most of them could have come away with an intelligent idea had there been an adequate supply of guide-lecturers. The usefulness of this arrangement cannot be realised unless people will watch and see how it is done, watch how attentive are the audiences, how comparatively easy is the task of interesting them, and how admirably it was being clone by those engaged in that work in former years.

Perhaps of more ultimate importance than the interest of ordinary visitors is the power of interesting teachers and school-children. As soon as they are revived a plan could be made whereby classes of children could be taken round the museums in this admirable way, and the lesson given there would count as part of their regular school attendance. It is a kind of instruction which would excite much more interest than most school lessons. I believe that interest would grow, certainly the knowledge would advance if the experiment were tried a little more thoroughly.

In the interesting Report of the Ministry of Reconstruction, drawn up under the chairmanship of Viscount Haldane, attention is called to the need for bringing into touch the authorities of our museums and the educational authorities throughout the country. There is a paragraph which specially shows how that could be done with a view to utilising our museums better. The present Minister for Education has more than once expressed his desire that effect should be given to this suggestion, and if the proposal made by the noble Lord is accepted, and we could increase the number of our guide-lecturers, I believe it would be found that the demands for further aid on the part of those teaching in the schools would be enormous. I lay stress on those teaching in the schools, because if intelligent teachers, or a group of intelligent teachers, which is the best thing, will go round with the guide-lecturers they will probably be the best exponents to the children, probably better than the lecturer who may know a little too much. The power of lecturers to inspire young teachers with an interest in the subject which they can afterwards impart to the children is the thing we ought to be thinking about, planning and arranging for: and it would be productive of untold good. The Board of Education is most anxious to be helpful in the matter, and we have been told over and over again that our museums want to do what they can.

I can answer that at the British Museum, and also at the Natural History Department at Kensington, every possible endeavour will be made to meet the requests of teachers, or teachers on behalf of their classes, to give this sort of lecture in the best kind of way. I have spoken only of the British Museum, because I am personally familiar with it. The same thing holds good for other museums in London, and for provincial museums. It is too often, perhaps, the case that our provincial museums are in the custody of men or women who are interested in the subjects, but who are rather there as people who are keeping a general supervision of what takes place. I believe that in every provincial museum for a small sum of money some one might be found who would be ready to help both teachers and children, or rather I would say to help teachers to help the children to understand the wonders of their own neighbourhood, and after that the wonders outside. The system is one which I believe is only in the infancy of its usefulness. We could extend it steadily, and twenty years hence people would be amazed to think how long we had gone on without utilising this machinery for education which is capable of extension to an almost infinite degree. I believe that the greatest possible gain will come if we boldly and bravely prepare to extend this system to all our museums to encourage teachers to go themselves and take their children, and to encourage other visitors to make their arrangements so as to follow the guide-lecturer when he comes. If that be extended we shall be grateful to the noble Lord and all who co-operate with him.


My Lords, I would like to say a few words upon this subject, because I happen to be a trustee of practically all the galleries and museums concerned. During eight or nine years of the experiment in guide-lecturers I have watched it with great care and with increasing admiration, and I am quite certain that no greater service can be done either to the youth or to the adult of this country than by the continuance and increase of these lectures. Especially am I impressed by the arrangements which were in process of being made just before the war for lecturers particularly to the teachers who have been mentioned by the most rev. Primate, in order that they themselves might become lecturers to their own classes, who could hardly be dealt with in bulk by the limited number of lecturers available.

But although it is most desirable to resume these lectures immediately, it is still more desirable to clear your museums of alien occupation in order that there may be something to which the lecturer may intelligently devote himself. The noble Lord spoke of the interest felt in the Egyptian mummy gallery of the British Museum. If the lecturer were to arrive there with an audience to-day he would find himself only able to lecture upon typewriters, card indexes, and "flappers." It might be amusing, but I doubt whether it would be educational or edifying. Even the British Museum is still occupied, and many of the other museums are totally closed, and look as if they will remain closed for a long time, because there is apparently no move on the part of the Government or of those concerned to evacuate many of these museums.

I am quite sure that the noble Lord who will reply to us to-day will go as far as his instructions permit him, which will probably be to offer us the usual hopeful sympathy with a desire that something may turn up. I think, my Lords, that we have been put off with that sort of attitude towards the museums long enough. The First Commissioner of Works generally disavows any responsibility and throws it back upon the Committee on Government Accommodation, of which I believe he is the chairman. But I should like to go beyond the First Commissioner of Works and make an appeal to the two noble Earls who lead in this House, the Lord President of the Council and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, both of them trustees of several of our galleries, both of them possessing a real knowledge and interest in art. I would ask them if they could not make sonic effort within the Government to get a move for the evacuation of these museums before it is too late for our oversea visitors in this country at least to see some of our treasures.

A case has occurred which I would commend to the noble Earl for his special attention. There is an old annexe to Lancaster House on the side of the Green Park, in the garden, not very sightly and not very permanent. About a week ago it was evacuated by the French Naval Commission. It is standing vacant to-day. It can accommodate a staff of over forty clerks and principals. If the staff of forty clerks and principals who now occupy the London Museum were transferred into this vacant annexe a great part of the London Museum could be re-arranged and could be got ready for immediate opening. There is no possible reason for leaving this costly annexe empty. It would give a chance of opening one at least of our museums, and, if I may say so to the most rev. Primate, one of our best-labelled museums, because you are able to walk through it without the assistance of guide or guide-book, which does not exist. Unless somebody in authority in the Government itself puts some pressure upon minor departments I see no hope of the evacuation of these museums for months, it may be for years, to come, looking at the character of the officials who now occupy them; and it is for that reason only that I have ventured to interpose for a few moments in this debate.


My Lords, I would like to add one or two words to what has already been said. In the first place, I should like to associate myself entirely with the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, and also with the most rev. Primate and with Viscount Harcourt. It is not pleasant to feel that an appeal has to be made in a Chamber like this in relation to a great educational matter. After what we have heard from the Archbishop of Canterbury as to the advantages from an educational standpoint, one would fancy that that would be sufficient for those who have not had the opportunities of studying this question for the last thirty-five years that he has had, and personally I would be quite satisfied to follow him as a safe guide in the expenditure of this small amount of money.

I have, in a way, a small interest in this matter, because I think that I can speak, although unofficially, on behalf at least of some of the Dominions. From the Imperial Institute we were practically turned out, and we are out still. Take one case, that of Newfoundland. We pay a very high rent for a room in that building, not a very large room, not a room like this Chamber, and we filled that up with exhibits—exhibits not so much educational in their nature as of great value from the stand- point of exhibiting our commercial resources. We did this not so much in order to educate and interest people, but to let the world know what we can produce in a commercial sense in Newfoundland. There would have been no objection as far as Newfoundland was concerned in connection with the war if all these exhibits had been destroyed, but on January 1 that room was vacated by the Ministry of Food, which had occupied it for some considerable time, and since then, for some reason that I have not been able to understand or appreciate, the War Office—or the Department for the keeping of the accounts of some Gun Corps or some other department like that—have occupied it, and the result is that none of the exhibits are there, and there does not seem to be any hope that these people will go out. If there was any good reason for their continuing there one could understand it, but there are thousands of houses vacant in London in one of which far better and more satisfactory accommodation for this particular work could be found. There is hardly a street in which you cannot get one of those large mansions that would be nearer the public and would provide all the accommodation required.

I hope that this matter will be seriously considered, and that an opportunity will be given us to get these exhibits back. It is of great importance at the present time that people who are going to invest and develop the resources of the various Dominions should be able to go to some place where they can see specimens and get samples to take away to study in connection with the various projects that they are considering. I very much regret that I was not present when this matter was brought up previously by the noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, and the other noble Lord associated with him. I endorse all that has been said, and hope that the Government will now seriously take the matter up.


My Lords, the noble Lords who have dealt with this question have done so armed with full knowledge of all the details of the subject. Perhaps I may therefore be pardoned if I deal with it purely from a general point of view. In the recent war the successes—certainly the initial successes—achieved by Germany were due in great measure to her superiority over most other nations in technical and scientific know- ledge applied to the art of war. We have emerged successfully from that war, but we are faced with a much greater contest—namely, the great industrial contest which is about to take place. It is, therefore, of supreme importance that no channel of education of any kind should be neglected.

At present the bulk of the youth of our country are about to be demobilised from the Army, and this is therefore a very good moment for extending education in every form. Book-lore, of course, is not education, and those drawn from the class to which the majority of your Lordships belong have the advantage of a special form of education in that they live both in town and in country, they are brought into contact with scientific and technical knowledge as applied to the amenities of life, and from their earliest days they meet many classes of people, and as a consequence obtain a broader view of everything. Our young men have been to a slight extent educated in this way owing to the war. They have been abroad, they have mingled with other nations, and more especially they have been brought into close contact with Britain's sons from beyond the seas. As a result their minds have been expanded, their imagination developed, and their ambitions stirred and upon return to civilian life they will lie eager and anxious to take advantage of all forms of education, especially such a form as this with which little drudgery is connected.

There is one class of these men to whom we owe a debt of gratitude—namely, the young men who have been wounded or have lost their health during the war, and who are therefore unable to take part in outdoor exercises and pursuits. Rut here is a form of recreation of an educative kind which will be of the greatest value to those men. Many of them also are men of middle age who have been in the ranks, and who will be glad for the same reason to take advantage of these lectures. There is further the bulk of the population who earn their living by means of physical exercises—men in the building trade and the various branches of the carrying trade—who after their daily labour are unable to take part in outdoor recreation, but who have here an excellent source of indoor recreation. Recently we have heard much about the diminution of the hours of Labour. On that I offer no opinion. But in the industrial struggle of the future, in which the nations of the East are about to enter for the first time with their cheap labour in competition with the countries of the West, it is of the greatest importance that labour, whether the hours be short or long, should be carried on more strenuously. Moreover, machinery will have to be more perfect and capable of higher production; and, most important of all, that machinery will have to be directed with greater skill and knowledge than before. For these reasons I contend that this is the moment for expanding education of every kind.

The amount of money which will be required for the object in view is almost infinitesimal. We have at our disposal museums greater than all the museums in all the other countries of Europe put together; yes, in value and variety the exhibits in our museums are greater than those in all other European countries put together. A noble Lord doubts it, but I think he will find that I am not far wrong. People abroad in almost any country will tell you that they desire to visit London usually in order that they may see the British Museum. All our Colonial troops who come here are most anxious to see these museums, and at present, owing to the dearth of these guide-lecturers, they are unable to do so to any advantage—and they return to their homes crestfallen and dissatisfied, because they know that when they get back they will be asked whether they have visited this museum or that, whether they have seen this or that exhibit, and they will be obliged to say that they have not. We have at our disposal a valuable set of educational machinery, and all that we require is a minute expenditure in order to set the whole of that machinery into action. We are, I admit, heavily taxed at present, and of all classes the class to which we happen to belong is out of all proportion most heavily taxed. But, nevertheless, it is a very small sacrifice to ask your Lordships to make, after the immense sacrifices you have already made, to put the whole of this magnificent educative machinery into proper order.


My Lords, in the first place I hope that my noble friend who brought forward the Motion this afternoon will allow me to express my regret that I was unavoidably prevented from being here last week, and I thank him for having been good enough to put off the Motion until to-day. I trust that the postponement has not been inconvenient to him. Your Lordships will not have been surprised that my noble friend has once again urged upon the House the necessity not only of continuing but of increasing this system of guides in the public museums, for I think I am right in saying that he is the father of the system; and on a previous occasion when a conversation very similar to that which has passed this afternoon took place, due acknowledgments were made from every side of the House to my noble friend 'for the very useful public service he had performed in originating this plan.

The debate which has taken place this afternoon certainly seems to me to be a very marked illustration of what the noble Earl the Leader of the House called your Lordships' attention to yesterday—namely, the inconvenience of Questions being put down on the Paper and noble Lords getting up and introducing without notice topics that really are not germane to the Question. The noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, alluded to the great grievance of various public museums being still occupied by different Departments of His Majesty's Government. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches (who is not in his place at the moment) attacked His Majesty's Government for the same thing. Important as those matters are, I cannot see that they are strictly relevant to the Question which Lord Sudeley has put down this afternoon with regard to the system of providing official guide-lecturers for the museums and public galleries. The Department principally concerned is, I suppose, the Office of Works, and the noble Lord who represents that Department had no notice that these particular complaints would be renewed this afternoon—only a few days after he had answered a Question on the subject—and, as a matter of fact, he is not now in the House.

Generally speaking, the Government have great sympathy with Lord Sudeley in his wish that the system of guide-lecturers should be continued as it was before the war; but there are certain difficulties in the way. I can point out to your Lordships the exact position in regard to the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Gallery. The two guides who were employed at the British Museum before the war to give lectures are at present employed under other Government Departments; but I understand that the trustees—the most rev. Primate will correct me if I am wrong—propose to recall them as soon as possible, and are also contemplating an extended system of work in co-operation with the London County Council and the schools of art. These matters, of course, can be dealt with only partly by the Government; the trustees of these institutions are equally concerned, and it is impossible, without their being fully brought before the trustees, that the old system can be renewed.

As regards the Natural History Museum, my noble friend has already explained to the House that the services of the official guide have been maintained throughout the war and will be continued on the present footing. At the Victoria and Albert Museum tours have been maintained during the war by voluntary assistance from members of the Art Teachers Guild, as my noble friend stated; and I am sure that everybody concerned ought to acknowledge a warm debt of gratitude to those ladies and gentlemen who were good enough, in the absence of the paid official guide, to come forward voluntarily and render these valuable services in conducting parties round the Museum. My noble friend will be glad to hear that it is proposed to restore the official guide in the Victoria and Albert Museum from the first day of next month. As regards the National Gallery, the guide-lecturer is still in the Army. The trustees are anxious to secure his services as soon as possible, but they do not know at present when he will be available. At the Tate Gallery the post of guide and lecturer is at present vacant, but the trustees are considering the appointment of a successor. Noble Lords, however, are probably aware that this gallery cannot be re-opened for several months.

The question of finance is involved in all these matters, and I noticed that the most rev. Primate, speaking just now of the facilities for visitors to these institutions, said it was possible to procure excellent guide books—suitable for persons without much scientific or literary knowledge—at, I think, the cost of a few pence. It has occurred to me—I suppose it is a matter largely for the trustees to consider—whether in the re-appointment of old guides or in the appointment of new ones it would not be possible to provide for part of their remuneration by charging visitors some small fee if they wish to join the parties.

With regard to the second part of my noble friend's Motion, provided he is willing to amend it by leaving out the words "without further delay," and is also willing to delete the last two lines, "making such addition to the numbers and in the salaries and status of the guides as may be found necessary," I am informed that the Government would accept it.


My Lords, I regard the speech to which we have just listened as eminently unsatisfactory. I am sorry to say so, because I know that there are members on the Government Bench, among them the noble Earl who is leading the House, who take a strong view in connection with the use to which our museums and institutions of a like character ought to be put, and I know that I shall have the sympathy of the noble Earl. But when we are told, as we have been told by the noble Lord who has just sat down, that some of the comments which have been made in connection with this subject are not germane to the Question on the Paper, it seems to me that this is an abuse of words. My noble friend Lord Harcourt drew attention to the fact that a large number of Government Departments occupy our museums, and this appears to be resented by the noble Lord as not germane—


I did not resent it, but I said it had nothing to do with the Question on the Paper.


I think it has everything to do with the Question, because if you have your museums closed you cannot have lectures. Therefore it is as germane as it possibly can be. When he takes the case of the Victoria and Albert Museum and pays a very deserved tribute to those teachers of a certain guild who have come forward and done their best to help in war time, he ignores the gravamen of the charge which we make against the Government, which is that here is a museum full of the most wonderful products of the world, in which every purchaser in the country ought to take an interest—the exhibits embrace all the articles and materials of every trade, design, and work, whether iron work, machinery, furniture, metal or glass, or other work—yet this museum is occupied by the papers and records and staff of the Board of Education, while the Board's own offices in Whitehall are occupied by another Government Department. We complain that here is an institution, built for the development of trade, commerce, and industry, and that at the very moment of all others when the nation requires this kind of thing its premises are being occupied by a Government Department, by typewriters, records, and papers, and its galleries are all closed.


The galleries are not all closed.


Just half are closed.


You said "all" are closed.


Well, a very large number are closed. Take the Bethnal Green Museum. The gallery there is entirely closed, I believe. Before the war it was used by elementary schools in the East of London, and the children went in and out and were taught a large number of subjects which they could not be taught in the schools. The whole of the Tate Gallery is closed, with a thousand Government clerks sitting there, and it will be months and months before the public can go into it. That is the gravamen of the charge which we make—that the Government are placing other Departments in these museums, which are therefore not available for the educational advancement of the people. The Victoria and Albert Museum has done a very great work in the past; 800,000 people used to visit it annually before the war, but not half that number that go there now. If there are lecturers coming on April 1, they will resume work under very difficult circumstances, and it will be almost impossible to do justice to the exhibits.

There are two points which I want to make on the subject with regard to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The first is that we have an agreement with the French Government that there should be in the Victoria and Albert Museum, within six months of the end of the war, a Franco-British Textile Exhibition of an extremely interesting character. Unless the Board of Education are going to be turned out of the Museum it will be quite impossible to carry out that agreement with the French Government, and I believe it will be very important to the textile industries of Manchester and Glasgow and elsewhere that that exhibition should take place.

The other point I want to make is this—that the value of these exhibits and the vitality of the Museums depend very largely upon their being kept up to date. I am, of course, not speaking about antiquities in museums such as the British Museum. If people are encouraged to go, and if lecturers show people round and explain to them the mechanism of the various exhibits and why they have been made in a particular way, and interest them in the various exhibits, what follows is that a large number of people get interested in museums who never were interested before. These museums depend for their continued vitality upon benefactions, and unless we have new acquisitions they will not be kept up to the mark in the future. That is a matter of real importance, and for these reasons and for reasons explained by previous speakers I trust that the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, will do his utmost to place pressure upon the Government to allow these museums to resume their proper work and proper functions, and to encourage these lectures to take place in the museums—a subject which has been so fittingly raised by the noble Lord opposite to-night.


My Lords, I understand that the Government wish me first of all to leave out the words "without further delay" from my Motion, and, secondly, to omit the last two lines. That would take out the pith of the whole thing. What we want is to have the scheme carried out without further delay. I am entirely in your Lordships' hands, but I hope the Government will not insist upon this. Surely if they acknowledge the necessity of the case, it is not very much to say that they ought to do it without further delay. At present the Government have agreed, so far as the British Museum is concerned, to make such addition in numbers and salaries as may be found necessary. Why, therefore, should they refuse to do the same thing in other museums? If they consider the matter they will, I am sure, see no necessity for leaving out the last two lines of my Motion. Lord Hylton, in his reply, said he thought one alteration ought to be made with regard to these lectures, and that some arrangement should be made for charging a certain fee. In my opinion it is the essence of the whole thing that the lectures should be free, and I hope that no alteration will be thought of. I do not at all like altering my Motion in the way suggested, and I trust that Lord Crawford will be able to say that lie will waive those two points and permit the Motion to be passed as it is.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I say a word with reference to what was said by Lord Hylton? Do I understand that, on behalf of the Government, he definitely proposed that the trustees of the British Museum should now he requested to charge a fee for these lectures? If he did, I should resist it to the uttermost. I want to understand whether the proposal is really meant. The whole plan of these lectures is that the British public should get some advantage from that for which they are paying, and to say that they are to pay to be shown what belongs to them is very unsatisfactory.


My Lords, in order to relieve anxiety, may I say that there is no proposal on the part of the Government that the lectures should be paid for. It was stated that it was the habit of people who go to the British Museum to pay a few pence for a guide-book, and I ventured to suggest that if such was the case they might pay a contribution towards the guide instead.


My Lords, I desire to say one word. Many years ago I moved a similar Resolution in this House, and therefore I have taken a certain amount of interest in the subject. I have to thank the noble Lord for the way in which he has brought public opinion to support the Motion he has put on the Paper. I hope he is going to press it. I certainly will support him. It is difficult to understand that the Government can have so little vision as not to see that this is the very moment of all others when we should push forward education. The one thing that we want is that education should be free as far as possible, and that we should be able to get every man in the country to visit these museums and understand the meaning of them and have their minds widened. That is what we want. The working men say they must have equal opportunity; yet it is proposed to close the doors by asking for fees. If the members of the Cabinet were here they would not for one moment support what we have heard front the Government Bench. I believe that your Lordships are in favour of Lord Sudeley's proposal, and I earnestly hope that the House will show itself alive to the interests of the time and will not support the Government.


My Lords, I think there is very little between the Government and its critics, certainly so far as I am concerned. I have had as much experience as any critic of the Government in the knowledge and management and popularisation of museums. My noble friend Lord Hylton suggested that the Resolution should be accepted subject to certain amendments. I do not think it is any good passing a Resolution, as your Lordships of course can do, unless it is going to be effective. In the first place, it would be a pity if your Lordships passed a Resolution which is inaccurate in terms. It states that "with one exception" this system has been in abeyance during the war. That is not correct, and I think it would be a pity to record that statement. Secondly, I think that it would be very unwise that your Lordships should pass a Resolution to the effect that the salaries of a particular group of public officials should be raised. That is undesirable. Thirdly, I think it would be also unwise to pass a Resolution to say that certain things have got to be done without delay when we all know that delay cannot be avoided.

My desire is to get this system reestablished the earliest possible moment, and not only re-established but enlarged in every direction, not merely in our great national museums but in the valuable series of provincial museums scattered all over the country. Your Lordships can say that it is to be done without delay. I can only tell your Lordships that that is impossible. It is quite impossible, for instance, that a gallery with which I am closely concerned—the National Portrait Gallery, of which I have been vice-chairman for a great many years—shall be opened to the public without delay. We have got all our pictures back there, but the condition of the gallery, even if we turned out the public servants who are working there now, is such, after four years of war, that months are going to elapse before the public can be re-admitted. The next stage, of course, will be the complete re-hanging of the gallery, in itself a very large, anxious, and formidable task. Months I say, therefore, are going to elapse. Your Lordships can say that the system of guide-lecturers is to be re-established without delay in the National Portrait Gallery. I am sorry to say it cannot be accomplished even by the mandate of the House of Lords. Therefore my noble friend suggested that we should content ourselves with an expression of opinion that this admirable system should be reinstated at the earliest possible moment. I am quite prepared for those words. I should regret if we added two other things—a misstatement of fact, and a statement about raising the salaries of a particular group of public servants, which I think prima facie is undesirable.

There is nothing further I need say on the subject, except that I am in agreement with critics on points which have not been raised specifically in the terms of the Resolution. If one of your Lordships cares to have the subject probed and puts down a definite Question about the evacuation of public museums and galleries, it will be possible for my noble friend Lord Stanmore to go into it and give some complete information on the subject. You will then be able to judge how far the Government—as Lord Meath somewhat unjustly accuses them—are deliberately Philistine in the matter of museums.


My Lords, I do not know what view the noble Lord who made the Motion takes of the observations which have just been addressed to us on behalf of His Majesty's Government, but I confess that I am not entirely convinced by them. As a matter of extreme purism and adopting an almost unusually deferential attitude towards another place, your Lordships may conclude that to suggest the raising of salaries is somewhat beyond our competence. I do not know whether the noble Lord who made the Motion would care greatly about the omission of those particular words. As regards the alleged inaccuracy of the statement that there is only one exception to the cessation of this practice during the war, I confess I do not know what the facts are. I did not understand the noble Lord who represents the Department to inform us of other cases in which the practice had been continued during the war, and in the absence of any statement of that kind on the part of His Majesty's Government one is entitled, I think, to assume that the charge is correct. That, again, is not a matter of the first importance

But I confess I do hope that the noble Lord will not consent to alter the words "His Majesty's Government should without further delay reinstate the system." Of course, nobody can ask His Majesty's Government to do impossibilities. It is quite clear that when the National Portrait Gallery—which was an instance mentioned by the noble Earl—is vacated it will have to be cleaned, and the portraits will have to be re-hung before this system can be re-introduced. That is obvious even to the simplest among us, and nobody would suppose that the words "without further delay" meant anything contrary to the necessities of the case. But what the words do mean is that they involve a very definite expression of opinion on the part of the House as a whole that steps ought to be taken at the very earliest moment to start conditions which will make the reestablishment of this system possible—that is to say, if you like to translate it into a concrete case, that the House does think that the National Portrait Gallery ought to be cleared at once of those Government servants who are now occupying it. The same thing applies to the Victoria and Albert Museum, to the London Museum, and others. Nobody supposes that these things can be done at a day's notice or by a stroke of the pen, but it is, I am sure, desirable that your Lordships' House should couch a Resolution of this kind in the strongest and most unmistakable terms so as to show what our feelings on the subject are.


My Lords, I think that my noble friend the Chancellor of the Duchy is under a decided misapprehension. He based his argument on two special points. His objection was founded on the delay at the National Portrait Gallery, and he gave an example which is absolutely wrong, if I may dare to say such a thing. The National Portrait Gallery has never been under the system. I wish it had. We have wanted historical lectures by guides, but this has never been done in the National Portrait Gallery.


I was speaking about the evacuation of the building, and not about the establishment of guide-lecturers.


I beg the noble Earl's pardon. I thought he said that the National Portrait Gallery could not at once be brought into the system. But there is another point. "Why," asks Lord Crawford, "do you put in with one exception,' which is wrong?" I say it is true. There was only one exception—the Natural History Museum. The Victoria and Albert Museum certainly carried out the system—


May I rise to a point of order? After what fell from the noble Earl the Leader of the House yesterday, is the noble Lord in order in addressing the House three times?


I am not going to trouble your Lordships to go to a Division if you agree to pass the Resolution. I act, of course, upon the interpretation given to its wording by Lord Crewe. I lay special stress on that point.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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