CD's reasons for not signing the memorial requesting removal of natural history exhibits from British Museum. Less sure about moving botanical specimens to Kew. His notion of museum organisation.
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Huxley
The names which you give as supporting your memorial make me quite distrust my own
judgment. But as I must say yea or nay, I am forced to say
that I doubt the wisdom of the movement, & am not willing at present to
sign. My reasons, perhaps of very little value, are as
follows. The governing classes are thoroughily unscientific, & the men of art
& of archæology have much greater weight with government than we have.
If we make a move to separate from Brit. Museum, I cannot but fear that we may go to the
dogs. I think we owe our position in large part to the hundreds of thousands of people
who visit the B. Mus. attracted by the heteregeous mixture of objects. If we
lost this support, as I think we should, for a mere collection of animals does not seem
very attractive to the masses (judging from Museum of Zoolog. Soc. formerly in Leicester
Square &c) then I do not think we
If we were to separate, I do not believe that we
In regard to the Botanical collections I am too ignorant to express any opinion: the point seems to be how far Botanists would object to journey to Kew; but there are evidently many great advantages in the transposition.
If I had my own way, I would make the B. Mus. collection only a typical one
for display, which would be quite as amusing & far more instructive to the
populace (& I think to naturalists) than the present enormous display of Birds
& Mammals. I would save expence of stuffing & would keep all skins,
except a few “typicals”, in drawers. Thus much room would be saved,
& a little more space could be given to real workers, who could work all days.
Rooms fitted up with thousands of drawers would cost but little. With this I
My dear Huxley | Yours very sincerely | Ch Darwin
P.S. | The memorial does not strike me as very lucid. The number of Divisions & Sub-divisions seem to me rather bothersome, & destructive of force of the whole.—
It seems to me dangerous even to hint at a new Scientific Museum—a popular Museum & to subsidise the Zoological Gardens; it would, I think, frighten any government.—
- f1 2347.f1Dated by the reference to a memorial presented to the British government concerning the natural history collections of the British Museum. A previous memorial had been circulated in June 1858 (see letters to R. I. Murchison, 19 June  and 24 [June 1858]); the second memorial was presented in November 1858 (see Appendix VI).
- f2 2347.f2A preliminary draft of this memorial to the chancellor of the exchequer is in the Huxley papers, Imperial College Archives. The final version (transcribed in Appendix VI) was signed by CD, Huxley, George Bentham, George Busk, William Benjamin Carpenter, William Henry Harvey, Arthur Henfrey, John Stevens Henslow, and John Lindley.
- f3 2347.f3CD had previously signed the memorial circulated by Roderick Impey Murchison in June 1858, protesting against the proposal that the natural history collections should be moved from the British Museum (see Appendix VI). The new memorial maintained that the collections could be re- arranged to best effect if they were removed from the British Museum site. CD presumably felt that having endorsed the need to keep the collections within the British Museum, he should not support alternative plans.
- f4 2347.f4The museum collections of the Zoological Society of London had been closed in 1855 and sold to the British Museum (Scherren 1905, p. 123).
- f5 2347.f5The second memorial proposed that a new museum be established, comprising a ‘Typical or popular museum’ of zoology and a ‘Scientific zoological museum and library’. All the botanical collections, it suggested, could be sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the ensuing repository turned into an equivalent ‘Scientific botanical museum and library’. See Appendix VI.
- f6 2347.f6The first paragraph of the postscript (‘The memorial … force of the whole.—’) has been deleted.