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Museum

collections, art, museums, natural, history, specimens and institutions

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MUSEUM (Lat. museum, from Gk. souoeIov, mouseion, temple of the Muses, place for study, museum, from MoOcra, ,Ifonsa, Muse). An insti tution for the preservation, study, and exhibition of objects of art or those of natural origin. The term was originally applied to a place or temple sacred to the Muses, lint a little later was be stowed on institutions for the pursuit of the higher branches of learning, such as art and philosophy, the first recorded use of the word for this purpose being the famous Museum of Ptolemy Soter at Alexandria. The application of the word to institutions for the preservation and exhibition of works of art or specimens of natural history is comparatively recent, as are the institutions themselves, and seems to have conic into vogue with the systematic gathering of objects for public exhibition. Such collections were originally known as cabinets; and while the term was to some extent restricted to small pri vate collections, it was also given to many of very considerable size, such as the State Cabinet of Natural History at Albany, N. V.

The germ of the modern museum has been thought by some to lie in votive offerings placed in pagan temples or deposited in churches, and in objects of sacred or historical interest pre served in churches and monasteries. And it. may be said that one of the earliest references to the preservation of specimens of natural history is the account of the skins of what are now sup posed to have been gorillas brought home by Hamm and presented by him to the Temple of Astarte in Carthage. Museums of art and of natural history had their origin in collections made by the rich and powerful without at first a more definite purpose than to gratify their own pleasure or curiosity. Somewhat later men of science gathered material to furtIn'r their own special lines of research, and many of these pri vate collections eventually developed into public nmsemns. Thus of the national museums of Europe had their beginnings in collections made by former sovereigns, while the British Museum grew out of the cabinet and library of Sir Ilan, Sloane. The Ashmolean at

Oxford, England, was the result of the labors of Elias Asininity, who began collecting in 1667, while the Museum of the Royal College of Sur geons. London, is based on the anatomical Ma terial gathered by the famous surgeon John Minter, and the llunterian Museum of the Uni versity of Glasgow was founded by his brother, William Hunter. It may be of interest to note that the exploration of America did much to promote the growth of museums and that the cabinets of Sloane and Ashmole. particularly the latter, comprised many specimens from the New World. Incidentally, too, public houses may be credited with some slight share in the develop ment of museums; for, in England at least, they formed small collections of curiosities to attract visitors, and Artedi, iu his work on fishes, men tions three taverns where lie had seen specimens of American fishes. Directly related to these, and representing another stage in the develop ment of museums, was the establishment of /Ms eellanerms collections. more or less seientifie in their nature. to whieh visitors were admitted upon the payment of it fee. President Adams mentions a collection of this sort in Norwalk, Conn.. formed by a \I r. Arnold prior to the Revolution. but the best of the type in this eountry were those of the Peales in Philadelphia and ltaltiuno•e. Two noteworthy foreign eollec thins were those formed by Sir Ashton Lever, at Manchester, in 1775. and by William Bullock somewhat later at Liverpool. These were event unity taken to London, where they flourished at different periods. and their importance may be inferred from the fact that when these collections were sold various foreign museums sent repre sentatives to attend the sale. Snell large private establishments were the immediate precursors of our present State or governmental institutions. These represent the general aeknowledgment of the value of 11111S1.11111S, and are held to mark a stage in the progress of civilization beyond that of the art gallery or library, since the develop ment of science is far late• than that of art or literature.

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