Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
American Museums.
The Museum of Comparative Zoology,
Harvard University (S401: 1887)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Printed in the Fortnightly Review of 1 September 1887. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S401.htm


    [[p. 347]] The immense energy of the American people in all that relates to business, locomotion, and pleasure, is to some extent manifested also in their educational institutions, and in approaching this great and all-important subject they possess some special advantages over ourselves. They are comparatively free from those old-world establishments and customs whose obstructiveness so often paralyses the efforts of the educational reformer, and their originality of thought and action has thus freer scope; they are not afraid of experiments, and do not hastily condemn a thing because it is new; while, in all they undertake they are determined to have the best or the biggest attainable. Hence it is that colleges and universities for women, schools where the two sexes study together, institutes for the most complete instruction in technology, and in all branches of experimental science, and the combination of manual with mental training as part of the regular school course, are to be found in successful operation in various parts of America, though, with rare exceptions, only talked about by us; while in most of the higher schools and colleges science and modern literature take equal rank with those classical and mathematical studies which still hold the first places in Great Britain.

    The same originality of conception, and the same desire to attain the best practical results are manifested in some of the great American museums, which now rival, in certain special departments, the long-established national museums of Europe; although there is, of course, as yet, no approach to the vast accumulation of treasures of old-world natural history which is to be found at South Kensington. Notwithstanding the deficiency of material, however, the Harvard Museum is far in advance of ours as an educational institution, whether as regards the general public, the private student, or the specialist; and as it is probably equally in advance of every European museum, some general account of it may be both interesting and instructive, especially to those who have felt themselves bewildered by the countless masses of unorganized specimens exhibited in the gloomy halls and galleries of our national institution. Let us first consider, briefly, what are the usual defects of great museums, and we shall then be better able to appreciate both what has been aimed at, and what has been effected at Harvard.

    Our British Museum, which may be taken as a type of the more [[p. 348]] extensive institutions of the kind, originated in the bequest of a private collector more than a century ago, and has since aggregated to itself most of the collections made by Government expeditions and explorations, while it has received extensive donations of entire collections made at great expense by wealthy amateurs, and has also of late years made large purchases from professional collectors. Such a museum began, of course, by exhibiting everything it possessed to the public, and with some exceptions this plan has been continued for the larger and more popular groups of animals. Large glazed wall-cases for stuffed quadrupeds and birds, with table cases for shells, starfish, insects, and minerals, were early in use; and while these were gradually improved in quality, size and workmanship, they have continued, till quite recently, to be almost the sole mode of arranging the collection. During the latter half of the present century the accession of fresh specimens has been so extensive that the task of naming, classifying, and cataloguing them has been beyond the power of the curators and their assistants. During the same period, while new species have been so rapidly added to the collections, the labours of anatomists and embryologists have led to constant and important changes in classification, and as it is quite impossible to be continually re-arranging scores of thousands of specimens, it necessarily follows that the museum cases have presented to the public an old and long-exploded arrangement, often quite at variance with the knowledge of the day as to the affinities of the different groups. A still further difficulty has been the over-crowding of the cases, because it was long the custom to exhibit to the public at least one specimen of every new species acquired by the museum; and the difficulty of finding room for the ever-increasing stores has rendered nugatory all attempts to group the specimens in varied ways, so as to convey the maximum of instruction and pleasure to the visitor.

    Although the evils of this method of arranging a museum had been pointed out by many writers, notably by Sir Joseph Hooker, in his address as President of the British Association, at Norwich; by myself, in an article in Macmillan's Magazine, and by the late Dr. J. E. Gray, keeper of the zoological department of the British Museum, very little radical improvement has been effected in the new building at South Kensington. It is true that many of the large mammalia are more effectually exhibited in costly glazed floor-cases, and there is a great extension of the interesting series illustrating the habits and nesting of British birds; but the great bulk of the collection still consists of the old specimens exhibited in the old way, in an interminable series of over-crowded wall-cases, while all attempt at any effective presentation of the various aspects and problems of natural history, as now understood, is as far off as ever. What may be done [[p. 349]] in this direction, and how a museum should be constructed and arranged, so as to combine the maximum of utility with economy of space and of money, will be best shown by an account of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.

    This museum originated in 1858, by a bequest of fifty thousand dollars from Mr. Francis C. Gray of Boston to Harvard University, for the purpose of establishing a museum of comparative zoology; while the collections it contains were begun by Professor Louis Agassiz, who had been for many years professor of zoology and geology. Owing to the exertions and influence of Professor Agassiz, the legislature of Massachusetts was induced to make a grant of one hundred thousand dollars, while over seventy thousand dollars were subscribed by citizens of Boston "for the purpose of erecting a fire-proof building in Cambridge suitable to receive, to protect, and to exhibit advantageously and freely to all comers, the collection of objects in natural science brought together by Professor Louis Agassiz, with such additions as may hereafter be made thereto."

    The general plan of the building and the arrangement of the contents were carried out in accordance with Professor Agassiz's views, while the collections have been greatly increased by the results of the great Thayer expedition to Brazil, by numerous gifts from private collectors, and especially by the many dredging expeditions carried out by Professor Alexander Agassiz, at his own cost, and by extensive purchases of specimens by the same gentleman, who, since his father's death, has occupied the post of curator of the museum, and has devoted his time and large private means to the development of the institution, so as to render it a worthy monument to his father's memory.

    The portion of the building already erected is about 280 feet long by 60 feet wide, inside dimensions. This forms the northern wing of the proposed museum, which, when completed, will consist of two such wings, connected by a front of 400 feet. A central partition wall runs lengthways through the building, dividing it into rooms, each 30 feet wide and 40 feet long, except in the centre of the wing, where a projection increases the width to about 70 feet, and this is left open on one floor, forming a room 70 feet by 40 feet for the exhibition of the larger mammalia. The angles connecting the wings with the front of the building are also somewhat larger, and are occupied by laboratories, professors' rooms, staircases, &c. The museum thus consists essentially of rooms of the uniform size of 40 feet by 30 feet, and from 10 to 12 feet high, each being well lighted by a row of windows on one of its sides, forming a building of five floors above the basement. In some of the public rooms the upper floor consists of a gallery, leaving the centre of the room open for the height of two floors.

    [[p. 350]] This it will be seen is very different from what is usually considered the proper style of building for a great museum, which is characterized by lofty halls, magnificent staircases, and enormous galleries; but however grand and effective architecturally these may be, they are quite unsuited to the essential purposes for which a museum is constructed. Let us consider in the first place the waste of well-lighted space on which the efficiency of a museum so much depends. A large gallery, such as is often seen in great museums, may be 200 feet long and 50 feet wide, giving 500 feet of wall. But if this is divided into five rooms, each 40 feet wide by 50 feet long, we shall have 900 feet of wall, the greater part of which, being opposite the windows and comparatively near to them, will be far better lighted. But the vast gallery must be proportionately lofty and would suffice for two floors of moderately sized rooms, so that, after allowing for the greater number of doors and windows in the smaller rooms we have an economy of space of at least three to one in favour of the small-room plan, with an even greater proportionate saving of expense, owing to the smaller scale of all the ornaments and fittings.

    But the chief advantage of this style of building consists in the facilities which it offers for subdivision and isolation of special groups of objects, and their arrangement so as to illustrate many of the most interesting and instructive problems of natural history. The galleries of a large museum, crowded with specimens arranged in a single series throughout the whole animal kingdom, confuse and distract the observer. As Professor Alexander Agassiz well says in one of his admirable reports as curator, "The great defect of museums in general is the immense number of articles exhibited compared with the small space taken to explain what is shown. The visitor stands before a case which may be exquisitely arranged and the specimens carefully labelled, yet he does not know, and has no means of finding out, why that case is filled as it is; nothing tells him the purpose for which it is there. The use of general labels and a small number of specimens properly selected to illustrate the labels, would go far towards making a museum intelligible, not only to the average visitor, but often to the professional naturalist." . . . "The advantage therefore, of comparatively small rooms, intended for a special purpose and for that purpose alone, will overcome at once the objections to be made to large halls where the visitor is lost in the maze of the cases, which, to him, seem placed without purpose and filled only for the sake of not leaving them empty." Let us now see how these ideas have been carried out at the Harvard Museum.

    The first thing to be noticed is the small proportion of the whole building open to the general public, as compared with that devoted to the preservation and study of the bulk of the collections. The existing portion of the building comprises seventy-four rooms, which [[p. 351]] are apportioned thus:--Ten rooms in the basement are filled with the vast collection of specimens preserved in alcohol, four rooms being occupied by the fishes, and the remainder by reptiles, mammals, birds, crustacea, mollusca, and other invertebrata. Four rooms are devoted to the entomological department. Seventeen rooms are devoted to storage and workrooms for the various departments. Four rooms are occupied by the libraries, and there are also seven laboratories for the students, an aquarium and vivarium, together with a large lecture-room. The remaining rooms are occupied by the curator and the professors in the several departments, except the seventeen exhibition rooms, which alone are open to the public. Before proceeding to describe these it will be well to notice the admirable manner in which space is economised and work facilitated throughout the building.

    In all the storage and work rooms the side next the windows is occupied only by rows of tables, while the collections are preserved in cases running across the room in parallel rows, from front to back, and reaching from the floor to near the ceiling, with just space enough between them to get at the specimens conveniently. These cases are quite plainly constructed to hold series of drawers or trays of a uniform size and depth, but which will admit drawers of two or three times the depth where the size of the specimens require it. The drawers run loosely in open frames so as to be freely interchangeable, and the whole case is enclosed by well-fitting glass doors. Every drawer or tray is distinctly labelled to show its contents, while a part of the room (or of an adjacent one) is devoted to a library of books specially treating of the groups stored in it. In such a room the student or specialist finds, close at hand, all that he requires, with ample light and table-room on which to arrange and compare the specimens he may be studying. The general library is arranged on a similar plan, on tiers of shelves running across the room, with just space to walk between them, the cases being enclosed by open wire-work doors; and it is a striking proof of the purity of the atmosphere in this suburb of Boston, that there was not the least visible accumulation of dust on books which had not been removed or dusted for many years. The fine trees which surround the museum for some distance no doubt greatly assist in preserving a dust-free atmosphere. The vast number of specimens thus conveniently stored can only be realised by seeing the tiers of cases in room after room, the collection being especially rich in fishes, radiate animals, and marine organisms generally. The advantages of the uniform interchangeable drawers are enormous, as they admit of the growth of the collection in any department and the rearrangement of the several groups with the least possible amount of labour. To admit of this growth and rearrangement, a case is here and there left empty; while even the [[p. 352]] transference of a large part of the collection from one room to another would be effected with ease and rapidity.

    Having thus seen the general character of the arrangements for students and specialists, let us proceed to examine the rooms devoted to the instruction and amusement of the general public. On entering the building the visitor finds opposite to him an open room, over which is painted in large letters, "Synoptic Room--Zoology," and, when inside he finds, on several blank spaces of wall, an intimation that this room contains a Synopsis, by means of typical examples, of the whole animal kingdom. Two large wall-cases are devoted to the Mammalia; each Order being represented by three or four of its most characteristic forms, from the monotremes and marsupials up to the apes and monkeys. The rodents, for example, are illustrated by means of stuffed specimens and skeletons of an agouti, a porcupine, a rabbit, a squirrel, and a jerboa; the ungulates by a small tapir and a young hippopotamus, always accompanied by their skulls or skeletons. The birds are similarly represented in one wall-case by stuffed specimens and skeletons of all the chief types. Another case is filled with reptiles--fine examples of lizards and snakes in spirits, tortoises, alligators, toads, &c., while the fossil forms are shown by a small but very perfect oolitic crocodile, a Plesiosaurus, a beautiful slender lizard of Jurassic age, and a cast of the Pterodactyle with its wings. Another case contains some striking specimens of fishes, both in spirits and stuffed, with their skeletons, as well as some beautifully-preserved fossil fishes. The worms, sponges, and insects are exhibited in three more wall-cases, while the crustacea, radiata, and mollusca occupy two cases in the centre of the room, and over these is suspended a model of a gigantic cuttle-fish twenty feet in diameter.

    The special features to be noted in this room are, that its contents and purpose are clearly indicated to every visitor, each group and each specimen being also well and descriptively labelled; that every specimen is good and perfect, well mounted, and beautiful or interesting in itself; that skeletons exhibiting the differences of structure, and fossils exhibiting some of the strange forms of earlier ages of the world, are placed along with the stuffed specimens; and, lastly, that the specimens are comparatively few in number, not crowded together, and so arranged and grouped as to show at the same time the wonderfully varied forms of animal life, as well as the unity of type that prevails in each of the great primary groups under very different external forms. We here see that a room of very moderate dimensions is capable of exhibiting all the chief types of form and structure that prevail in the animal kingdom, and of thus teaching some of the most important lessons to be derived from the study of nature. It constitutes of itself a typical museum of animal life, and is more really instructive, as well as more [[p. 353]] interesting, than many museums which contain ten times the number of specimens and occupy far greater space. It may serve as a model of the kind of room which should form part of every local museum of Natural History, leaving all the remaining available space for the purpose of giving a complete representation of the local fauna and flora.

    The visitor now ascends to the third floor, which is wholly devoted to exhibition rooms. He first enters the largest room in the building (about seventy feet by forty), in which is arranged a systematic collection of mammalia, of sufficient extent to exhibit all the chief modifications of form and structure without confusing the spectator by a vast array of closely allied species or badly preserved specimens. A large gallery surrounds this room, devoted to the systematic collection of reptiles, and on a level with this gallery is suspended a very fine skeleton of the Finback whale, about sixty feet long, in a position to be thoroughly inspected both from below and above. The other prominent objects are fine specimens, with skeletons, of the American bison, the giraffe, and the camel; skeletons of each of the five great races of man, and of the three chief types of anthropoid apes; and some casts of the large extinct Australian marsupials in the same cases with the skeletons of their comparatively small modern representatives. Four other rooms, each of the standard size--forty feet by thirty--are devoted to a similar representative collection of birds, fishes, mollusca, and polyps, respectively; while in galleries over these rooms are the collections of crustacea, insects and worms, echinoderms, acalephs, polyps, and sponges. The most striking objects here are, perhaps, in the bird room, a grand skeleton of the Dinornis maximus, as compared with that of an ostrich; in the molluscan room, a model of the giant squid of Newfoundland, about twenty feet long, with two arms thirty feet in length, their dilated ends armed with powerful suckers; and among the lower forms the beautiful glass models of the sea-anemones and polyps.

    This systematic collection differs from the usual collections exhibited in public museums in the following important points. It is strictly limited to a series of typical species, which may be from time to time improved by the substitution of better or more representative specimens, by alterations of arrangement, &c., but which are never to be extended, because they are already quite as numerous as the average intelligence even of well-educated persons can properly understand. The skeletons and fossil types are all exhibited in juxtaposition with the stuffed specimens. Each class of animals is exhibited by itself, with ample explanatory labels to teach the spectator what he is examining, and what are the main peculiarities of the different groups. Of course, in a comparatively new institution, the best and most illustrative species have not always been [[p. 354]] obtained, or the best and most instructive methods of exhibiting them hit upon. In all these matters improvements will be constantly made, while the space devoted to each class and the number of specimens exhibited will undergo no material alteration.

    We will now pass on to the special feature of the museum, and that which is most to be commended, the presentation to the public of the main facts of the geographical distribution of animals. This is done by means of seven rooms, each one devoted to the characteristic animals of one great division of the earth or ocean, which we will now proceed to describe.

    Beginning with a room devoted to the North American fauna, we at once note its general characteristics in its wolves, foxes, bears, and seals; its numerous deer and squirrels, its noble bison now approaching extinction, while a grand skeleton of the mastodon exhibits its most prominent mammal of the immediately preceding age. A closer examination shows us its more special peculiarities, its pronghorn antelope, its raccoon, skunk, and prehensile-tailed porcupine, with its numerous small carnivora and rodents. Among its birds we notice the wild turkey, the black vulture or "turkey-buzzard," the fine ruffed grouse and crested quail, as characteristic features; while among the smaller birds its numerous woodpeckers, its tyrants, and its prettily coloured thrushes, warblers, and finches are most prominent. Its reptiles and amphibia are characterized by numerous fresh-water tortoises, many curious lizards, the rattlesnakes, and other striking forms; many varieties of frogs, some of large size; and its very curious and interesting salamanders and other tailed batrachia. Its fishes are rich in fine and characteristic forms, and we notice specimens of the siluroid cat-fish, the garpike, and the mud-fish, belonging to the extremely ancient type of the ganoids, the huge devil-fish of South Carolina, one of the most gigantic of the rays, with many others. Among its shells, the fresh-water Uniodæ are prominent; and, in the insect collection, the number of large and brilliantly-coloured butterflies is very striking as compared with those of Europe.

    The next room takes us into South America, and here we are at once struck with many remarkable contrasts. First, there is the comparative scarcity of large mammalia, the higher groups being represented by the lama, the tapir, a few small deer, and the jaguar, which is common to North America; while such low and ancient types as the sloths, ant-eaters, and armadillos abound, together with an unusual number and variety of large rodents, and many peculiar forms of monkeys. The extinct mammals are well represented by a fine skeleton of the Megatherium or giant sloth of the Pampas. The birds exhibit a wonderful richness and variety, with a similar preponderance of low types of organization. The blue and claret- [[p. 355]] coloured chatterers, the many-coloured little manikins, the strange white bell-birds, the wonderfully-crested umbrella-bird of the Upper Amazonian islands, the brilliant crested cock-of-the-rock, and the innumerable tyrants, bush-shrikes, and ant-thrushes, all belong to a type of perching birds in which the peculiar singing-muscles of the larynx have not been developed, and which are but scantily represented in any other part of the world. The metallic trogons, with yellow or rosy breasts; the ungainly but strongly-coloured toucans, with their huge but exquisitely-tinted bills; the green and gold jacamars, as well as the hundreds of species of those winged gems, the humming-birds, represent a yet lower and more archaic type of bird life nowhere so strongly developed as in this marvellous continent. The beautiful crested curassows are also a low form perhaps allied to the Australian mound-makers. Reptile life is abundantly represented, but except, perhaps, the iguanas, there are none to strike the ordinary observer as being especially characteristic. The insects, however, at once attract attention; the grand blue morpho butterflies; the exquisite catagrammas, with their fantastic markings beneath; the immense variety of the Heliconoid butterflies, with their elongated wings and antennæ and striking colouration, and the wonderful variety and beauty of the little Erycinidæ, a family almost confined to South America. Among other insects we notice the strangely-formed and fantastically-coloured harlequin-beetle, the huge rhinoceros-beetle, the large lanthorn-fly, and many others, as being equally peculiar.

    Crossing now to the opposite continent of Africa, we are presented with a contrast in the forms of life at once marvellous and interesting. From the poorest continent in mammals we pass to the richest, our eyes being at once greeted by the elephant, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus, the buffalo, the giraffe, and the zebra, with a vast array of antelopes, the lion, and the great man-like apes. The most cursory inspection of these two rooms will teach the visitors a lesson in natural history that he will not learn by a dozen visits to our great national storehouse at South Kensington--the lesson that each continent has its peculiar forms of life, and that the greatest similarity in geographical position and climate may be accompanied by a complete diversity in the animal inhabitants.

    Passing on to the birds, the difference between the two continents is almost equally great, although not so conspicuous to any one but an ornithologist. The great bulk of the South American groups have no representatives whatever in Africa. Instead of toucans we have hornbills and turacos; instead of humming-birds we have the totally different group of sunbirds; instead of the tyrants, hangnests, and chatterers, we have flycatchers, starlings, and orioles; instead of bushshrikes and ant-thrushes we have true shrikes and caterpillar-catchers [[p. 356]] --in almost every case a high grade of organization in Africa in place of the low grade in South America. Passing over the reptiles and fishes, as not presenting forms sufficiently well known or whose external characteristics are sufficiently distinctive, we find in the insects equally marked differences. The African butterflies have a peculiar style of form and colouring distinguishing them from those of most other parts of the world, sober greens and blues or rich orange browns being common. The Heliconidæ of America are here replaced by the allied but distinct sub-family of the Acræidæ, while among beetles the huge goliaths and the monstrous tiger-bulls are altogether peculiar.

    The next room we enter is the Indian, or Indo-Malayan; and here the scene again changes, though not so radically as we found to be the case in passing from South America to Africa. There are still many great mammalia, but of distinct characteristic forms; the tiger replaces the lion, deer and bears are abundant groups, which are entirely unknown in Africa, the orangs and the long-armed apes replace the gorilla and the chimpanzee, true wild cattle are found as well as buffaloes, while the musk-deer, the strange flying lemur, and the gigantic fox-bats are characteristic forms unknown elsewhere. Among birds, the most typical group is that of the pheasants, which reach their highest development in the peacock and many-eyed argus; the hornbills are of a different type and more varied forms than those of Africa; the cuckoo family is abundant and varied, while the gorgeously-coloured broadbills and ground-thrushes belong to the low type of perchers so abundant in South America. Among the insect tribes we especially notice the glorious yellow and green-winged ornithopteræ, the princes of the butterfly world; the huge atlas moth, the largest of lepidoptera and probably the largest-winged of all insects, the three-horned atlas beetle; the grand buprestidæ, and the strange leaf-insects of Java and Ceylon.

    We now enter the room devoted to the Europe-Siberian fauna, the chief object in it being a fine skeleton of the great Irish Elk, while its most representative living mammals are deer, wolves, wild boars, bears, wild oxen, wild sheep and goats, the chamois, and some peculiar forms of antelopes. Its most prominent birds are its partridges, grouse, bustards and pheasants, but it is deficient in gay-coloured perching-birds as compared with all other regions. Its reptiles are few and insignificant, as are its fresh-water fishes. In insects its chief characteristics is the abundance of beetles of the genus Carabus, its dung-feeding lamelliscorus and its fritillary butterflies.

    Lastly, the Australian room brings us into an altogether distinct world of life. All the conspicuous mammals are of the marsupial type, from the giant kangaroos down to the diminutive kangaroo-rats and flying-opossums; and these comprise representatives of all [[p. 357]] the chief types of the higher mammalia in the form of herbivorous, carnivorous, rodent, and insectivorous marsupials. Among the birds we have such peculiar forms as the emu, the recently extinct dinornis, the mound-making brush-turkeys, the lyre-birds and bower-birds, the birds of paradise, the cockatoos and lories, the brush-tongued honey-suckers, and the varied and beautiful forms of the kingfishers and fruit-pigeons--an assemblage of peculiar and beautiful developments of bird life hardly to be equalled except in South America. The recently extinct forms--the colossal kangaroos and wombats of Australia, and the huge dinornis of New Zealand--were equally remarkable.

    The six rooms now briefly described complete the exposition of the geographical distribution of land animals, and the visitor who makes himself thoroughly acquainted with their contents by repeated inspection and comparison, will obtain a conception of the general aspects of animal life in each of the great divisions of the globe which hardly any amount of reading or of visits to ordinary museums would give him. It is a remarkable thing that so interesting and instructive a mode of arranging a museum, and one so eminently calculated to impress and educate the general public, has never been adopted in any of the great collections of Europe, in all of which ample materials exist for the purpose. It is a striking proof of the want of any clear perception of the true uses and functions of museums that pervade the governing bodies of such institutions, and also perhaps, of the deadening influence of routine and red-tapeism in rendering any such radical change as this almost impossible. But we have yet to see some further applications of the same principle at the Harvard Museum.

    Two rooms not yet opened to the public are being prepared to illustrate the fauna of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans respectively. Here will be exhibited specimens of the peculiar forms of whales and porpoises, seals, walruses, and sea-lions, the oceanic birds, the fishes and mollusca characteristic of each ocean, while separate cases will illustrate the land fauna of the more remarkable of its oceanic islands. On my suggesting to Professor Agassiz that the northern and southern portions of these faunas were usually distinct, he thought that these might be perhaps exhibited at opposite ends of each room.

    Four other rooms are also being prepared to exhibit the geological succession of animal life. In the first room the visitor will find illustrations of the mollusca, the trilobites, and the strange and often gigantic fishes of the palæozoic era down to the Devonian age. The next will contain the same groups as exhibited in the carboniferous period, with the earliest forms of amphibia and reptiles, and their later developments in the Jurassic period when the first small mammals made their appearance. Here will be exhibited models of the [[p. 358]] huge reptile (Atlantosaurus) discovered by Professor Marsh, by far the largest of all terrestrial animals. Then will come a room devoted to the Cretaceous deposits, the wonderful giant Ammonites and the abundant reptilian and bird forms which have been discovered in America. The last room of the series will be devoted to the Tertiary deposits, and will show the many curious lines of modification by which our most highly-specialised animals have been developed. If some of the preceding rooms contain the most marvellous products of remote ages, here assuredly will be the culminating point of interest in seeing the curious changes by which our existing cattle and horses, sheep, deer, and pigs, our wolves, bears, and lions, have been gradually modified from fewer and more generalised ancestral types.

    Of all the great improvements in public museum arrangement which we owe to the late Professor Agassiz and his son, there is none so valuable as this. Let any one walk along the vast palæontological gallery at South Kensington, and note the crowded heaps of detached bones and jaws and teeth of fossil elephants and other animals, all set up in costly, mahogany and glass cases for the public to stare at, with here and there a more complete specimen or a restoration; but all crowded together in one vast confusing series from which no clear ideas can possibly be obtained, except that numbers of strange animals, which are now extinct, did once live upon the globe, and he will certainly admit the imperfections of this mode of exhibition, as profitless and puzzling to the general public as it is wasteful of valuable space and inconvenient to the student or the specialist. In a proper system of arrangement all these fragments would be treated as material for study, not as specimens to be exhibited to the public. Casts and models of bones and other fossils can now be cheaply and easily made of paper, which when carefully coloured are to the ordinary eye indistinguishable from the specimen itself; and the materials already existing in the museums of Europe and America are so vast that nearly complete skeletons can be obtained of a great number of the more interesting extinct animals. What ought to be exhibited to the public, then, is a typical series of such skeletons or models, so arranged as to show the progression of forms and the evolution of the more specialised types as we advance from the earlier to the later geological periods. Instead of one huge gallery, a series of moderate-sized rooms should be constructed, each to illustrate one geological epoch, with subsidiary rooms where necessary to show the successive modifications which each class or order of animals has undergone. Where only fragments of an important type have been obtained, these might be exhibited with an explanation of why they are important, and an outline drawing showing the probable form and size of the entire animal. A museum of this kind, utilising the palæontological treasures of the whole world, would be of surpassing [[p. 359]] interest, and would exceed in attractiveness and popularity all existing museums. It would offer scope for a variety of groupings of extinct and living animals calculated, as Professor Agassiz intended his museum to do, "to illustrate the history of creation, as far as the present state of scientific knowledge reveals that history." It is surely an anomaly that the naturalist who was most opposed to the theory of evolution should be the first to arrange his museum in such a way as best to illustrate that theory, while in the land of Darwin no step has been taken to escape from the monotonous routine of one great systematic series of crowded specimens arranged in lofty halls and palatial galleries, which may excite wonder but which are calculated to teach no definite lesson.

    A grand opportunity is now afforded for a man of great wealth, who wishes to do something for the intellectual advancement of the masses. Let him build and endow a "Museum of Comparative Palæontology," for the purpose of carrying out Agassiz's idea on a scale worthy of it. Such a museum, built on the plan of that at Harvard, but perhaps with rooms of a larger average size, would easily accommodate the far larger number of spectators that would certainly visit it, and would tend more than anything else could do to raise the sciences of palæontology and zoology in popular estimation, and to clear away the clouds of misunderstanding which still enshroud the grand theory of evolution. It would enable the general public to appreciate for the first time the marvellous story presented by the sequence of animal life upon the globe, and would at once instruct and elevate the mind by exhibiting the comparative insignificance of existing animals, in variety and often in size, to those which have preceded them, and by demonstrating the innumerable and startling changes of the forms of life upon the globe during the long series of ages which preceded the advent of man. Such a museum would certainly become the most popular, as it would be the most instructive, of all the great scientific exhibitions yet established, while its founder would secure to himself an amount of honourable fame rarely accorded to those who devote money to public purposes.


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