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ART MUSEUMS AND THEIR USES. « C'est aans le gouvernement républi
“ Promote, as an object of primary cain que l'on a besoin de tout la puis importance, institutions for the general sance de l'éducation."
diffusion of knowledge.” MONTESQUIEU.
WASHINGTON. THE juxtaposition of this wise counsel of the Father of our Re
I public with the aphorism of the great French jurist, was the happy thought of some one connected with the American educational department of the Paris Exposition of 1878. The words were inscribed on either side of the entrances to the little enclosure where the indefatigable efforts of the able director, Dr. Philbrick, had provided, multum in parvo,-many things in small space,--an admirably arranged exhibit illustrating the condition and methods of education in the United States. I have quoted the words here because the sentiments they express are strongly affirmative of the argument I wish to make. Certainly, never before the present time have the educational forces of the country been so severely tried, nor has there ever been a time in our history when greater effort was needed to promote every aid to the general diffusion of knowledge. In addition to the rapid natural increase of the population in the United States, a great army of immigrants—3,000,000 or thereabouts in the last decade,—is peopling the land. They come from all parts of Europe, and they are chiefly the surplusage of the unskilled labor of the nationalities which they represent. The heterogeneous mass is absorbed into the body-politic, and
contributes to the material growth of the country, but it is deficient in the elements essential to intellectual development. To remedy this, it is the province of education to so order this growth that it be healthy,—to take care that it shall not drain the vitality of the system, but increase its strength. Education is the only agency upon which we can rely to infuse vigor and activity into the parts. It is the vivifying power,—the genius of the Republic.
It is of the first importance, therefore, that we should exercise constant vigilance that education is fulfilling these requirements ; and this is the more necessary just at this time, because there is every evidence that we are entering upon a new era of progress, and that the present is a transition period in which the old educational methods are giving place to new ones. The change is rendered necessary by the changed conditions of society which accompany the progress of civilization. The industrial development of the country during the past fifty years has been accompanied by a multiplication and diversification of the occupations of men heretofore unthought of. Science is engaged in making discoveries of great economic value as aids to production. What the discovery of the mariner's compass and printing did for a former age, has been supplemented by steam-carriage and telegraphy in this. Industrial competition has become world-wide, and in every department of industry there is a demand for increased technical skill and knowledge. The great educational question of the day is how to supply this demand.
We have passed that stage of development when the production of the simple necessities of life required all our attention. Industry is adding attractiveness to usefulness. The hard utilitarian period, when all our energies were centred on material aims, may be said to have passed away with the first century of our existence. With the opening of the Centennial Exhibition were unfolded possibilities of culture and refinement for the people never before thought of. We learned then the lesson that previous expositions had taught Europe : that art, as a branch of mental training, had value as an economic factor, and importance as an educational aid ; that it might be made to contribute to the advancement of the working people, and to the prosperity of the whole community. We saw that the art instinct is no vague feeling, but a potent actuality ; that it is universal, entering into the humblest home and beautifying the humblest surroundings. The era of national culture in the United States may be dated from the Centennial. Since then the interest in everything relating to the encouragement of the arts, and to the development of those forms of education in which they are practiced, has become too generally diffused throughout the country, and is being evidenced in too many substantial ways, to allow of its being regarded as a mere passing whim,or fashion. Its study is no longer relegated to a few, but urged upon all.
The movement to make industrial art training a branch of technical education had its practical beginning in England in 1851. At the World's Fair, held that year in London, the deficiency of taste shown in all articles of British manufacture incited the Government to take immediate steps to remedy this defect. Ten years later, at the Exposition of 1862, the improvement in this regard was so marked, that France, always keenly alive to anything threatening her prominence in art manufactures, appointed a commission to report what measures were necessary to make the training of her artisans more effective. It was not long before German commissioners were at work upon a similar report for Germany, and at the present time the question of industrial art education is receiving earnest and general discussion throughout Europe. Governments, State and local, are giving it attention. In the struggle for industrial supremacy, eachination is striving to secure the highest development of industrial productiveness. They are using every means to incite, encourage and educate whatever of talent their people possess. Vast sums are being spent in its accomplishment. Education in the elementary schools is revised, and industrial departments added thereto. Drawing is universally taught. Training schools are established in the smaller towns; art and technological collections are provided for the universities. Arrangements are perfected by which the treasures of the great national museums can be brought more directly within the compass of educational use. To the world's expositions, which may be regarded as vast temporary museums containing the latest achievements in every department of science and art, delegations of artisans are sent, at Government expense, to study the productions of their fellow artisans in other nations. The manifold advantages of making such exhibitions always accessible to the working classes has led to the establishment of local museums in most of the great centres of industry. Such institutions are regarded as an essential element in national progress and are mostly under the patronage of the Government.
The most famous institution of this kind in Germany is the Industrial Museum at Berlin, which was organized in 1866 by a private association formed for the purpose, but which is now managed conjointly by the association, the State and the “city. It is liberally supported by the Government, and its schools have rapidly obtained a wide reputation. The Gewerbe Academie of Berlin justly ranks among the foremost of the great industrial institutions of Europe. Dresden, Stuttgart, Leipsic and Hanover also have industrial museums and schools that are noteworthy. The smaller trade schools may be counted in Germany by the hundreds, and in connection therewith we frequently find museums supplied with collections chosen especially to illustrate the school work.
A feature of the great Industrial Art Museum at Vienna is its system of sending loan collections of art objects to the various industrial schools throughout the Empire, and accompanying them with courses of illustrative lectures.
The people of France have long been indebted to the magnificent Government museums of art for the refining influences which always emanate from such surroundings, but it is only recently that there has been any effort made to render these collections directly subservient to educational purposes. The nation has, however, such unrivalled special collections as those of the Conservatoire Imperial des Arts et Metiers, the Museum at Sèvres and others, which, with their carefully conducted special schools, supply that technical education, the result of which is seen in the industrial supremacy of the nation.
Zurich has a noble school and museum, which was established to elevate the different branches of trade and operative arts, to endeavor to guide and cultivate a proper development and improvement of taste by exhibiting first-class specimens of foreign products; to domesticate, as it were, new and important inventions ; in general, to assist trade and tradesmen with such expedients and models as they cannot conveniently procure themselves. Numerous other instances might be mentioned, but these are sufficient to indicate the position European museums occupy relative to Continental systems of industrial education. They differ somewhat in the character of their collections, and in their facilities for instruction, but their common aim is the promotion of art industry.
In England, however, we find the best illustration of what it is possible to accomplish by these means. Great Britain was the first nation to undertake the art education of the people in a systematic manner. An art school for the training of designers to improve the patterns and designs used for manufactures had been established by the Board of Trade in London as early as 1837, and a few years later similar schools were established in the principal manufacturing cities in the provinces. At the same time, a system of purchase by the State of examples of art for use in these schools was begun, and sums of money were granted from year to year by Parliament for this purpose. Still the progress of the undertaking was slow. In 1850 only twenty-one schools existed. But the Exhibition of 1851 showed the inferiority of British art workmanship in so striking a manner that England at once set seriously to work to promote the cause of industrial art education. Convinced that the subject of art education was one of Governmental and public concern, a Department of Science and Art was formed under the Committee of Council on Education, for the purpose of disseminating a knowledge of science and art as applied to industry. In this year Parliament granted a sum of £5,000 for the purchase of objects for the purpose of forming a Museum of Manufactures of a high order of excellence in design, or of rare skill in art workmanship, as well for the use of schools of industrial art as for the improvement of the public taste in design.
The Museum was first opened in 1852 in Marlborough House. Five years later, the collections,already greatly increased by purchases and donations, were removed to the temporary structure in South Kensington, which has been replaced by the present extensive permanent buildings. Previous to 1860, £50,000 had been expended by the State in the purchase of specimens with the view of exhibiting the effects of the artists in combination with the workmen, not only in England, but in foreign nations, dating from the period of the revival of the arts in Europe. Since that time the scope of the Museum has been much extended and the amounts voted by Parliament have been proportionately increased. It has now become the central depository of all works of art, pictures, books on art and education, engravings, etc., collected by the State to serve in aid of the art education of the public.