Full Record

Museum and Art Gallery Well-patronised institutions
Record no:
28 August 1902
Kept:Press clippings book 1, p. 79


The report of the West Australian Museum and Art Gallery for the year 1904-
2 was, by command, laid on the table of the House on Tuesday.

The committee's report states :—

“We have much pleasure in reporting that H.R.H. the Duke of Cornwall and
York laid the foundation-stone of the eastern wing on July 24, 1901, but
regret to state that the building has not yet been commenced, although a
sum placed on the Estimates and voted by Parliament, in the year 1901, for
his purpose, and, moreover, a distinct promise was made to His Royal
Highness that the building should be erected at once, in order to obtain
his consent to preside at the ceremony. The wing is to contain an art
gallery on the first floor, and a geological gallery on the ground floor,
both of which are urgently needed, for at present the paintings are
temporarily hung in a part of the old gaol very inadequately lighted,
while a large proportion of the mineralogical and geological specimens are
packed away, although it is essential to the development of the State that
the exhibits of its natural resources should be well displayed.

The committee feel very deeply the importance of giving every facility for the
acquisition of technical education, and to this end, as reported last
year, added an arts and crafts section, and now, for want of the expected
additions, are unable to exhibit a large proportion of the specimens
acquired. Throughout the civilized world the urgency of such work is
recognised, owing to the fact that those nations that neglect technical
education fall behind in the struggle for existence. Everywhere museums
are being built and old ones enlarged. To quote two instances, the
Government of the United States have just appropriated over half a million
sterling for additions to the national museum, and the colony of Natal,
with its population of 61,000, has decided to spend £16,000 on building a
new museum in the capital of Pietermaritzburg. Suitable offices and store
rooms are greatly needed, for, as pointed out in the director’s report,
the annual expense of continually turning over the specimens stored, the
reserve, and duplicate collections, is very great, for the insect pests
are very numerous in the cells and outhouses of the old gaol. A condemned
cell is hardly suitable for the director of this museum, but no other
accommodation is available at present. The director, acting on the
instructions of the committee to be prepared for the opening of the new
galleries, has had mounted a great many specimens, which are daily
deteriorating owing to the nonfulfilment of the promise of the Minister.”

The director reports :—“The collections now contain 36,359 specimens,
which, with the cases, amount in value to over £34,000. The Museum and Art
Gallery are both, I regret to say, in a very unsatisfactory condition,
owing to the want of space, and the consequent overcrowding of the
specimens and paintings on view, which detracts from their usefulness ;
furthermore, a very large proportion of the art, as well as of the
ethnological and natural history specimens, are packed away, and as there
are no proper store-rooms, those entail a great deal of unreproductive
[sic] labor, and expense, in periodical examinations to prevent damage
from silverfish and other pests. The institution has been regularly
visited by teachers with their classes ; the attendance of the general
public has largely increased, especially on weekdays, although Sunday is
still a favorite time for visitors, as many coming on that afternoon as
during three whole week-days. The Sunday visitors in June totalled 1,838,
a number that could not be exceeded with safety, as the galleries are so
overcrowded and the gangways so blocked with cases. The genuine interest a
large proportion take in the specimens indicates that the privilege of
being able to study the collections on this day is much valued by a
considerable section of the public. On public holidays the number of
visitors exceeds 600 in the day. Some progress has been made with the work
of mounting and labelling specimens, but much remains in arrear, for, as
stated above, the specimens packed away occupy much time. Moreover,
although the collections have increased six fold since 1895, and the
annual additions have advanced from two thousand to upwards of four
thousand, yet the permanent staff has remained the same, viz., myself and
one clerk, if I except the extra assistance of a temporary clerk during a
small portion of the year. I beg to suggest that further regular
assistance be granted in the interest of the safe keeping of the
collection, to say nothing of the question of naming, for natural history
specimens usually arrive unnamed.

The specimens lent for exhibition in Paris and Glasgow are now being
returned, together with some valuable donations from the commissioners,
while in addition to these, which number many hundreds, about a thousands
fossils are daily expected from the British Museum which have been
presented by the trustees at the request of Dr. Henry Woodward. The Public
Works Department is supplying four of the cases requisitioned, which are
now almost finished, and will provide space for the exhibition of a few
hundreds out of the five thousand specimens stated in my last annual
report to be awaiting cases; but no provision has yet been made for the
display of the remainder, nor for those received this year, nor for those
specimens returned from Paris and Glasgow, for the places they formerly
occupied were filled immediately after their despatch to Europe.”

The financial statement shows that the balance in the West Australian Bank
is £243 10s. 3d. ; liabilities, £402 7s. 9d. ; deficit, £158 17s. 6d. The
number of visitors to the institution during the year was 42,276, as
compared with 37,093 during the previous twelve months. The additions to
the collection total 4,668, made up as follows :—1,957 donations, 1,267
exchanges, and 1,444 purchases.

Mr. John T. Tunney, who was appointed collector in 1895, has during the
twelve months been collecting in the North-West and North and is now
proceeding across country to the Alligator River, in the Northern
Territory. He has during the time sent down 108 mammals, 391 birds, 10
boxes of insects and reptiles, and 154 ethnological specimens. The greater
number of these belong to the Hon. Walter Rothschild, who pays the larger
part of the collector’s expenses.
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