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Letter 2349

Darwin, C. R. to Hooker, J. D.

29 [Oct 1858]

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    Memorial concerning British Museum collection. CD opposes removing the natural history collection of the British Museum to Kensington.

Transcription

Moor Park | Farnham | Surrey

Friday 29th

My dear Hooker

As you say that you have good private information that Government does intend to remove collection from Brit. Museum, the case to me individually is wholly changed; & as the Memorial now stands, with such expression at its head, I have no objection whatever to sign. I must express a very strong opinion that it would be an immense evil to remove to Kensington, not on account of the men of science, so much as for the masses in the whole eastern & central part of London.

I further think it would be a great evil to separate a typical collection (which I can by no means look at as only popular) from the collection in full. Might not some expression be added even stronger than those now used on the display (which is a sort of vanity in the Curators) of such a vast number of Birds & Mammals, with such a loss of room.

I am low at the conviction that Government will never give money enough for a really good Library.—

I do not want to be crotchety, but I shd hate signing without some expression about the site being easily accessible to the populace of whole of London.—

I am sorry to have given any trouble.

I repeat as things now stand I shall be proud to sign.

My dear Hooker | Ever yours | C. Darwin

I return home on Monday

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2349.f1
    CD was at Moor Park hydropathic establishment from 25 October to 1 November 1858 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
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    f2 2349.f2
    See preceding letter.
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    f3 2349.f3
    A large area in Kensington had been acquired by the government with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and many officials considered this an obvious site for relocating the natural history collections.
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    f4 2349.f4
    The final text of the memorial included the sentence: ‘The Typical or Popular Museum, for the daily use of the general public, which might be advantageously annexed to the Scientific Museum, would require a large building, in a light, airy, and accessible situation.’ (Collected papers 2: 26–7). See also Appendix VI.
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    f5 2349.f5
    The provenance indicates that at some stage Hooker forwarded the letter to Thomas Henry Huxley. Hooker was not a signatory to the memorial under discussion since the recommendations would, if carried out, considerably benefit the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, of which Hooker was assistant director (see L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 378–82).
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