April 20, 2017

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By Kenneth Hudson

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Sample text

From about the I82os onwards they begin to criticise the way the collection is arranged, or labelled, or lit, the inconvenience of the opening hours, the behaviour of the attendants. What is very rare is any confession of physical weakness. At all times, the connoisseurs and the professional critics Entry as a right 39 have visited exhibitions and galleries in a different spirit and with a different notion of enjoyment from the general public. How far, it is interesting to wonder, did they see what the manin-the-street saw?

These were first displayed in his own house, but by I 782 they had become so popular that Peale decided to build a new gallery, adjoining his house, to accommodate them. It had overhead lighting, the first gallery in the United States to be so designed. The gallery was advertised in the press as being for 'the reception and entertainment of all lovers of the fine arts', and it attracted what Peale had hoped for, more visitors and more 34 A Social History of Museums commissiOns. It would probably not have developed any further, however, if Peale had not been asked, in 1784, by a German scholar to send him some drawings of what were described as 'mammoth bones'.

Everything is, however, very orderly, although no form of labelling is apparent, and the visitor who was already well briefed and who knew what to look for would probably have found a great deal to interest him. The general public would certainly have received an overall impression of grandeur and riches, but how meaningful the collections would have been beyond that it is very difficult to say. At Marlborough House no seats were provided and no refreshment room. Self-education here demanded strength and stamina.

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