Excerpt: ... appear to 150 be. They have, to be sure, all the advantages of handy reference; but at the same time, on account of the great diversity in the character of their exhibits, they tend to encourage the spread of a patchy kind of knowledge, far from being helpful to the arts in the interests of which they are established. It must be remembered that, in these collections, all specimens of architecture and architectural carving are invariably seen in false positions. All have been wrenched from their proper settings, and placed, more or less at random, in lights and relationships never contemplated by their designers. To the environment of a piece of architecture, and the position and surroundings of carved decorations, are due quite half of their interest as works of art. Deprive them of these associations, and little is left but fragmentary specimens of handicraft, more or less unintelligible in their lonely detachment, misleading to the eye, and dangerous as objects of imitation, in proportion to the dependence they once had upon those absent and unknown associations. The educational purpose which these collections are intended to serve is liable to be construed into an unreasoning assumption 151 that every specimen exhibited is equally worthy of admiration. How often the plodding student is to be seen carefully drawing and measuring work of the dullest imaginable quality, with no other apparent reason for his pathetically wasted industry It would be strange, indeed, if all in this vast record of past activity was of equal value; if merely to belong to the past was a sure warrant that such work was the best of its kind. Far from this being the case, it requires the constant use of a more or less trained and critical judgment to separate what is good from the indifferent or really bad in these collections, for all are usually present. There is inequality in artistic powers, in technical skill, and a distinction of yet greater importance, which lies...
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