Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/558

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important and interesting forms of life. Explanatory tablets should be attached to them, and catalogues, containing clearly-written expositions of the general significance of the objects exhibited, should be provided. The latter division should contain, packed into a comparatively small space, the objects of purely scientific interest. For example, we will say I am an ornithologist. I go to see a collection of birds. It is a positive nuisance to have them stuffed. It is not only sheer waste, but I have to reckon with the ideas of the bird-stuffer, while, if I have the skin, and nobody has interfered with it, I can form my own judgment as to what the bird was like. For ornithological purposes, what is needed is not glass cases full of stuffed birds on perches, but convenient drawers, into each of which a great quantity of skins will go. They occupy no great space, and do not require any expenditure beyond their original cost. But, for the purpose of the public, who want to learn, indeed, but do not seek for minute and technical knowledge, the case is different. What one of the general public, walking into a collection of birds, desires to see, is not all the birds that can be got together; he does not want to compare a hundred species of the sparrow-tribe side by side; but he wishes to know what a bird is, and what are the great modifications of bird-structure; and to be able to get at that knowledge easily. What will best serve his purpose is a comparatively small number of birds, carefully selected, and artistically as well as accurately set up, with their different ages, their nests, their young, their eggs, and their skeletons, side by side, and, in accordance with the admirable plan which is pursued in this museum, a tablet, telling the spectator, in legible characters, what they are and what they mean. For the instruction and recreation of the public, such a typical collection would be of far greater value than any many-acred imitation of Noah's ark.

Lastly comes the question as to when biological study may best be pursued. I do not see any valid reason why it should not be made, to a certain extent, a part of ordinary school-training. I have long advocated this view, and I am perfectly certain that it can be carried out with ease, and not only with ease, but with very considerable profit to those who are taught; but then such instruction must be adapted to the minds and needs of the scholars. They used to have a very odd way of teaching the classical languages when I was a boy. The first task set you was to learn the rules of the Latin grammar in the Latin language—that being the language you were going to learn. I thought then that this was an odd way of learning a language, but did not venture to rebel against the judgment of my superiors. Now, perhaps, I am not so modest as I was then, and I allow myself to think it was a very absurd fashion. But it would be no less absurd if we were to set about teaching biology by putting into the hands of boys a series of definitions of the classes and orders of the animal kingdom, and making them repeat them by heart.