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precedent is one which they are desirous of avoiding, as it obviously may lead to many objectionable results.
The Committee deem it highly desirable to secure, if possible, Dr. McClelland's valuable services on the terms they have now set forth. His acquirements in various departments of Natural History, his zeal for the promotion of science, the liberality and disinterestedness he has evinced in his past connexion with the Museum, entitle him to be preferred to most competitors for this appointment. The Committee have endeavoured in this report however to discuss without bias towards any individual, the stipulations for tenure of office, which they deem most conducive to the interests of the Society and of science, and most likely to receive the approbation of the Government, through whose liberal grant the occasion of this discussion has arisen.
In the event, however, of Dr. M'Clelland's declining to accept the situation on the terms now proposed, the Committee recommend that candidates be invited to present themselves, that the testimonials of such candidates be examined and reported on by the Committee of Papers, and finally considered at a General Meeting. That the individual selected be appointed, but for twelve months, and his permanent appointment be made dependent on the ability and industry evinced during the probationary period. Should no candidate of sufficient acquirements present himself within three months, the Committee recommend that the President be requested to communicate with the proper scientific authorities in Europe, authorizing the appointment and dispatch to India of a competent individual, bound to serve the Society for a period of five years, and subject to the rules herein expressed.
The Committee would not be disposed to extend to any other individual but Dr. M'Clelland, the privilege of devoting but two hours daily to the Museum, and would require four hours at least, actual attendance at the Museum, from whatever other candidate might be selected.
EDWARD RYAN, Kt. Chief Justice of Bengal, & President of the Society.
D. MCLEOD, Colonel of Engineers, and Vice-President.
D. STEWART, Superintendent General of Vaccine.
DAVID HARE, Commissioner of Court of Requests.
H. W. SETON, Kt. Puisne Judge, &c.
W. H. FORBES, Major of Engineers, and Mint Master.
N. WALLICH, M.D. Superintendent of H. C. Botanic Garden.
Minute by Dr. GRANT, Apothecary to the Honorable Company.
I regret that I cannot concur in the whole of this report. Agreeing with much of the general principle that pervades it, I dissent from its application to our peculiar circumstances. The report closes with a well merited expression of the desirableness of securing, if possible, the services of a zealous, able, industrious and disinterested naturalist upon the spot, and yet purposes to fetter him with rules, which I fear might damp his ardour and circumscribe his usefulness, without any commensurate benefit to the institution, or perhaps alienate him altogether from a situation which he is well qualified to adorn.
The report proposes the consideration of the subject entirely on abstract principles, without reference to individual fitness here, or convenience of availing ourselves of such at once; but sincerely believing, as I do, that the readiest practicable plan is to avail ourselves of the intellectual means at hand, rather than incur the delay of waiting for remote and uncertain materials, I am averse to the adoption of rules which I fear may deprive us of Dr. M'CLELLAND'S services.
The three suggestions contained in the opening paragraph of the report appear to me objectionable, for the reasons to be stated as I proceed. 1st. I would not tie down Dr. M'CLELLAND (supposing him ready to undertake the office of Curator) to two hours daily in the Museum. Though it is not unlikely that at an average Dr. M'CLELLAND Would devote so much time to the duties of the Museum,-yet I conceive that the precise locality of duties bearing in the Museum, is of less importance than their being essentially well produced and looked after, not merely in the Museum, but out of it; since Dr. M'CLELLAND might labour very usefully for the Museum in his own house, without a scrupulous and inconvenient measuring of time within the walls of the Museum; and if left to himself might occasionally extend to more even than two hours. 2nd. Monthly reports for some time to come would almost entirely be confined to mechanical arrangement. Quarterly or half yearly reports, I conceive, would answer every useful purpose, and give less trouble. Let the Committee of Papers be a Committee of Management, and by frequent visits to the Museum obviate any tendency to inaction on the part of the Curator. 3rd. The non-removal under any circumstances of articles from the Museum, would impose a tantalizing restriction. A Museum, especially in India, is not the most favourable place for making minute observations, or recording results and circumstances. There may be several articles that the Curator would like occasionally to carry home, to examine quietly in the privacy of his own study; and I should be sorry to cramp any Curator's convenience by depriving him of this indulgence. To insist upon it, would be like the rule that holds in some libraries, that books should be looked at, only on the premises. That rule may be a very proper one in Europe, but I do not think it at present applicable here. Apply the same rule to numismatology, and it would be found very prejudicial. Had it been strictly acted upon in that branch, I question whether Dr. WILSON and MR. J. PRINSEP (the latter especially) would have effected such splendid results. Neither would I pay our Curator the bad compliment of implying, by such a restriction, that he would not take proper care of specimens. Instead of this, I would permit him to carry away what specimens he required, for a reasonable time; the vacant space being occupied with a card or half sheet of paper, bearing the number and character of the article, and the date at which it was borrowed, with the words, "taken by Curator."
Quite concurring in that part of the report, which states that the Curator's great object should be generalisation of several subjects, and not special devotion to minute observation of a sub-division, yet as I conceive that the two objects are perfectly reconcilable, I have no doubt that Dr. M'CLELLAND would pay due attention to both; neither do I imagine that the claims of speedy and effectual mechanical arrangement would at all suffer in the hands of Dr. M'CLELLAND, or take up so much time, as the proposal to tie down that gentleman's passing two hours daily in the Museum, would seem to indicate. In conclusion, as far preferable to the plan of sending in three months to Europe for a Curator, and procuring one who after his arrival in India would very likely become discontented at finding himself tied down for five years upon a salary which may sound imposing in Europe, but would be only a pittance for a man of education in India, and scarcely upon a par with the pay of some mechanics, I would prefer closing for a twelvemonth with Dr. M'CLELLAND, or with any other qualified gentleman in India, to whom such a limited salary might be an objectshould the conditions of offering the situation to the former be such as to make him decline it. J. GRANT.
Calcutta, 15th Feb. 1840.
To J. C. C. SUTHERLAND, ESQ. AND DR. O'SHAUGHNESSY,
Officiating Secretaries of the Asiatic Society.
GENTLEMEN,-I was favoured on the 19th with your letter of the 17th inst. inclosing a copy of a report of the Committee of Papers as to the manner in which the duties of the office of Curator to the Asiatic Society's Museum are in future to be conducted, and calling upon me rather prematurely to decide as to whether I can accept the office under such circumstances or not.
It appears to me that before my decision could be of any avail, the rules proposed by the Committee should be passed into law, and authorised by competent authorities. For my own part, I conceive the rules to be altogether vexatious, and so little calculated to promote the interests of the Museum, that I feel assured they will never be sanctioned.
2. In the next place, when the funds of the Society were inadequate to defray the expense of the usual salary, the Museum was just as valuable as it is now, and yet the duties were entirely left to me without restriction; but no sooner was the grant of an adequate allowance made by the liberality of the Government, than all became Curators; and I was supposed to be no longer competent to hold the office except under stipulations quite unheard of, in similar cases.
3. In vain did I even agree to the required stipulations in the sense in which those who proposed them, explained at the last Meeting of the Society that they were intended to apply, for as one scruple was removed, a new one was suggested, as if either to
Although I am the only officer of the Society who has but one other office to attend to, yet one of the first obstacles suggested was, that I had not time enough to devote to the duties, and although the officer who suggested this holds four or five appointments and is still a candidate for as many more as he can secure, he has time enough withal to know more of my business than I know myself.† (Dr. M'Clelland's note.)
+ Dr. M'Clelland forgets that he holds, or did then hold, three offices. Namely, Deputy Apothecary; Assistant Opium Examiner; and Secretary to the Coal and Iron Committee-all salaried appointments; a short time before this discussion he was salaried Curator to the Museum also, to which he had no objection to be re-appointed. The first of the appointments above mentioned requires actual attendance at office from eleven to four daily.-EDS.
drive me out of office, or reduce the situation to a state of dependance quite incompatible with the responsibility attached to it.
It is also to be recollected, that the very first intimation I had of the liberality of the Government, in granting an allowance for the situation I held, was accompanied with a proposition to provide another in my place.
4. As the report proposes to have framed the duties of the office to which such new pecuniary interest is attached, on the established usage of other Museums, I must be permitted to point out the error into which the Rapporteur seems to have fallen.
5. The Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London is placed under a Board of Curators, over which the Members of the College have no authority. I allude to this Museum as one in which the Government have an interest, and in all other Museums to the support of which the Government contribute, the Curators are equally independent. This Board may not only cut and dissect the specimens in such manner as may be deemed essential, but may send them to lapidaries and others to do the same; and Mr. Clift as well as Mr. Owen may make use of the results, the same as if they had been derived from their own private specimens.
6. The Museum at the India House is placed entirely, I believe, in the hands of its keeper, who may not only make such use of his descriptions of the objects contained in it as he conceives most likely to promote the ends of science, but exhibit those objects when necessary to the Societies of the metropolis.
7. Can the Committee of Papers reconcile this, with the stipulations they require from their Curator? e. g. "that all memoirs or papers* drawn up by the Curator for publication, as well as plates, models, &c. on subjects he may have investigated in the discharge of his duties, should, in the first instance, be placed at the disposal of the Committee of Papers; also, that all proofs of such papers pass through the inspection of the same body." The reason assigned for this very modest stipulation is perfectly ludicrous, and shows how unfit the Committee is to legislate in such matters, namely, that of a “fly-leaf having been prefixed without their knowledge or sanction to the last volume of Transactions. Although containing nothing from which the Committee would dissent, the precedent is one they are desirous of avoiding."
8. The Committee of Papers should surely have been aware that it is the Secretary, and not the Curator, who must be held answerable for irregularities of this kind, and yet the odd remedy they would apply is, that of depriving the Curator of the literary property that every one has a right to enjoy in his own free labours. How that could keep "fly leaves" out of the Transactions, I am quite at a loss to know.†
9. As the Committee do not profess to think much of "the elaborate investigation of a group or family," we cannot be surprised that they should not be disposed to encourage such a waste of time; and hence the clause preventing the removal of objects of Natu
The only literary work a Curator is expected to perform in the execution of his duty is the preparation of a catalogue of the collection under his charge. Whether that be a memoir or a paper I must leave to the legal learning of those who would draw the distinction. Even with regard to a catalogue, I would advise the Committee to imitate the Council of the Zoological Society of London, and declare, that they do not "hold themselves responsible for the nomenclature, and opinions expressed in this publication," i. e. the catalogue. (Dr. M'Clelland's note.)
The proof of the very unusual "fly leaf" alluded to, and which contained a glowing panegyric on the Bishop's College printing Press, was Secretaries for inspection.-EDS.
never sent to the
ral History from the Museum. Why, it was only at the last meeting of the British Association, that Dr. Buckland announced the intention of Messrs. Hutton and Henslow to continue the fossil flora of Great Britain, and of their requiring “the loan of specimens from the Geological Society, which would be carefully returned after drawings had been made of them."
10. Again, the Committee require that all correspondence connected with the Museum should pass through the Secretaries office, "in conformity with the practice of all similar institutions." Here the Committee no doubt evince the same intimate knowledge of the practice of other institutions, as in the instances already referred to.
It does not appear to have occurred to the Committee, that the Curator being a naturalist, can have little correspondence not connected with the Museum, so that to comply with this rule, he should require his friends to address him through the Secretary.
11. The Committee say, "our collection of minerals is an utter chaos,” a statement which is not the fact, for they are all arranged; a Committee that would lay down rules for the direction of a Curator ought to know the difference between minerals and rocks. "Though rich," say this Committee, in "anonymous specimens valuable in themselves as illustrations of abstract mineralogy, but devoid of interest in a geological or geographical light, owing to the neglect with which they have been treated, &c." We can easily understand that the Committee may have been ignorant of the names of many minerals in the collection, especially as they do not seem to know the difference between minerals and rocks, but it does not follow that such minerals are "anonymous ;" in fact the use of the term, as the Committee have applied it, evinces a total want of information on the subject; a mineral is not anonymous because it is without a label, any more than a man would be so when without a card in his pocket, with his name written on it. A person acquainted with either minerals or men will always know them' whether labelled or not. Yet this is the Committee who are ready to take the management of the Museum into their own hands, and as they say themselves, examine the claims of such candidates as may offer for the Curatorship within a period of three months.
12. "It appears," they say, "that the first object of the Society in remodelling the Museum, should be to form a grand collection of minerals and fossils, illustrative of the geology, geography, and palæontology of our British Indian possessions.” This sounds well, but we are at a loss to know how minerals and fossils could illustrate geography, and had always supposed that paleontology was merely a branch of geology; but perhaps the Committee intend to remodel the Sciences as well as the Museum. "A few existing minerals" (could there be any other kind)? This is the report of a Committee of Papers of a learned Society, claiming an authority quite unprecedented over the labours of others, it is therefore of importance before their claims be sanctioned, to see how far the scientific character of the Society would be safe in their hands) "and some superb fossils in our Museum are available for this
*This passage is quite explanatory of the views on which the writer acts, and of those by which the Committee of Papers are led.-As Dr. M'Clelland knows every mineral a glance, he thinks that quite sufficient. The Committee desire the novice to be supplied with the means of acquiring a little of their Curator's knowledge. As to the quibble regarding rocks and minerals, if Dr. M'Clelland knew the difference between a class and an order, he would be aware that every rock is a mineral, though every mineral is not a rock.-EDS.