Full Record

Vigilans et Audax Perth, Thursday, August 1, 1895
Record no:
1 August 1895
Kept: Press clippings book 2, p. 5


THE little function which was gone through yesterday on what is still
called the Gaol Hill, is deserving of notice for more reasons than one. A
number of citizens met to hear the Admistrator [sic] of the colony declare

the new Perth Museum open. The chairman of the committee, Sir JAMES LEE-
STEERE, introduced, so to speak, Sir ALEXANDER ONSLOW to the collection
which represents the beginning of what it may be hoped will become an
exhibition of objects of interest from scientific, natural historical,
artistic, and technological points of view, which will hold its own with
any of the collections of the of these Australian lands. There was no
effort at being unduly learned or instructive at the opening proceedings,
but none the less was the ceremony full of hope and promise for the infant
institution, which was, in a way, handed over to the public of Western
Australia yesterday. The only excursion into the domain of the scientific
was made by Mr. Bernard WOODWARD, to whose care and supervision the
condition of the Museum is chiefly due, and who gave some useful
explanations of the contents of some of the cases. The hall which is
devoted to the specimens which have been gathered together, is, so far,
ample for their accommodation, but with the assistance which it is hoped
Parliament will extend, the collection should be doubled, if not trebled,
in a couple of years. The words of welcome and approval uttered both by
the ADMINISTRATOR and Sir JAMES LEE-STEERE were appropriate if brief, and they and everyone who was present yesterday may be fully congratulated on the event of the day.

It is now something over eight years since a Commission was appointed by
Sir FREDERICK BROOME, under the direction of Mr. J. A. Wright, then
Director of Public Works for the colony, to consider the best means of
appropriating a sum of £3,000, which had been granted by Parliament to
mark the Jubilee of Her Most Gracious Majesty, and, after discussion,
reported in favour of using the money to lay the foundations of what was
to be known as the Victoria Jubilee Institute. This was to comprise a
public library, a museum and a picture gallery. The first named was at
once given effect to, and the result is the excellent collection of books
now housed in the chambers of the old Western Australian Bank, but which
are already far too small for the volumes which have accumulated, and the
crowd of readers which they have attracted. It was originally intended
that the building which was to he the home of the new institute should be
erected on the site of the Boys’ School, and Mr. E. MILLAR generously
presented the foundation atone, which was laid with as much pomp and
circumstance as the colony admitted of on Jubilee Day, 1887. The stone
remains there enclosed in a wooden covering. Up to now many causes
prevented the committee proceeding with the rest of the design, but in the
present year Sir JOHN FORREST enlarged the committee, and promised his
best help in procuring sufficient funds from Parliament for the erecting
and stocking of a museum. The result is the building whose opening to the
public was inaugurated yesterday afternoon. If the funds are voted the
reproach will then rest with the committee if the endeavour to make a
collection worthy of the colony should fail. There are few things more to
be deprecated than the backwardness of Western Australia in scientific
concerns. It is only this year that an observatory is likely to be formed.
We have no University, and but two or three secondary schools. Yesterday
the public were admitted to their new museum. When we remember the
wonderful field which this colony opens to the geologist, botanist,
zoologist, entomologist, and ethnologist, it may be pronounced truly
surprising that no attempt should have been made to gather even an
elementary collection of nature’s marvels, which we are told are in no
place more marvellous or interesting than on this side of Australia. If
the specimens were confined to this colony alone, to do full justice to
its natural wealth there would be enough of endlessly interesting articles
to fill half a dozen galleries as large as that opened to the public

There is one topic touched upon by the speakers which deserves earnest
attention. Both Administrator and chairman, the latter distinctly we
cannot doubt voicing the opinion of the committee, and both the views of
the community, urged an early commencement with the work of forming a fine
art collection. That the feeling in favour of not delaying this effort any
longer is universal is hardly open to dispute. What is more debateable
[sic] is the right way to proceed. There are few more perfect means of
refreshments for the eye and brain and mind, as there are few higher
instruments of education, than pictures, fine pottery, fabrics, statuary
and the like. It is a singular and oven deplorable circumstance that not
only is there nothing of the kind open to public inspection in Perth, but
there is almost nothing of this description to be found in our private
houses. Those who have never left these shores must grow up in ignorance
of this world of wonders save for what they can glean about it from
photographs and engravings, excellent in their way, but only substitutes
at the best. But the choosing of pictures, for example, is by no means the
easy thing many, might suppose it to be. His EXCELLENCY warned his hearers
against the cheap imitations of good pictures which are to be picked up
for a trifle, and are, for the most part, of the same value. The chief
difficulty is the selector. It requires a good artist and impartial, to be
satisfactory—impartial not alone as regards different schools, but as
regards individuals. He must know a really good picture—not so common an
accomplishment even among artists as might be supposed. But this is far
from all. The selectors for most galleries fail because they think so much
of technical acquirements. They forget a picture for a popular gallery
should be itself popular. Numbers of the pictures purchased for galleries
here and in the British provinces are about as uninteresting as can well
be imagined. Yet the public are told that they are bound to admire
quality, and should find out beauties which are hidden to all but the eyes
of the initiated. The reply to this is that it is by the verdict of the
crowd that the place of all painters in the temple of fame is eventually
determined. It is also true that a few good pictures are worth a host of
inferior paintings, but it is further true that with some pains a number
of good pictures can be certainly secured by a competent man for the sum
which Parliament, there is every reason to believe, will be ready to vote
if it is asked. But there is time to consider all these things, provided
only they are not delayed beyond another year—that is, beyond the time
which may be required for the completion of a building fitted to hold them.

A LARGE gathering of the leading residents of the city were present at the
opening of the new Museum yesterday. The building occupies a portion of
the site of the old gaol and adjoins that building. The function of
declaring the building open was performed by His Excellency the
Administrator. In the course of the speeches which were made, it was
stated that the committee hoped to add a library and an art gallery,
besides materially extending the usefulness of the Museum. The whole of
the proceedings were of a most successful character, and the committee and
the Curator, Mr. B. H. Woodward were very heartily congratulated upon the
success which had attended their labours.
Item availability
{ 1 } items found
Shelf no
On Shelf