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Picton Library, Brown Reading Room and Museum - 1902




Today, courtesy of  the Littlebury Brothers, we take a guided tour through the Picton Library, Brown Reading Room and Museum as they were in 1902.

These three Institutions have to a great extent an interest in common, and have internal communication not only with each other, but also with the Walker Gallery. The first building on our light as we leave the Art Gallery, the circular Picton Library, with its sixteen fluted Corinthian columns and handsome colonnade, was built at a cost of £15,000, and opened in 1879. (Note. Great improvements are now in progress here, including the removal of the elevated plateau.)





Having passed through a small gate in William Brown Street, and ascended a flight of steps, we enter this admirable building. The first thing to attract our attention is the unsupported roof, 100 feet in diameter. The books of the Reference Library are well placed in galleries all round the walls of the  building, and, on each side of some sixteen oak divisions, tables converge to the large central light. On walking round the Library we notice on our right hand a Bust and a Trowel: above these is an inscription, on which we read that the building was named after James Allanson Picton, Esq., J.P., F.S.A., in recognition of his services, for a period exceeding a quarter of a century, in the capacity of Chairman of the Public Library, Museum, and Gallery of Arts Committee. When walking round or sitting down in the room, we are certain to notice the extraordinary acoustic properties of the building. The solid rock having been excavated, a large room called “ The Picton Hall ” (formerly called "The Rotunda”), used for lectures, etc., has been formed below this Library. On leaving the “ Picton ” Room, we pass on the right hand the Central Branch of the Lending Library. Again making our way to William Brown Street, and going up the flight of steps, we reach the classic portico of the Museum building. This was built at a cost of £30,000, in Roman Corinthian design, with a frontage measuring some 222 feet. It contains many rooms, but for the visitor it will suffice to pass through the central doorway, and first enter, on the right hand, the “Brown” Reading Room and Lending Library. This Room is much used by artisans for general reading. We here find plenty to entertain us. All sorts and conditions of toilers and general readers stand eagerly scanning the daily papers. At the end of this first part of the Reading Room, we notice a host of Directories of all parts of our Empire. To our left we pass through a little barrier, and find readers waiting at a counter for books from the Lending Library, and, seated at the tables, many others deeply engrossed in their reading or thoughts, and taking every advantage of the Institution. On the walls are some pictures of note. Occupying the place of honour,    a portrait of Sir William Brown, Bart., M.P. for South Lancashire, 1848-58. “ The donor of this building.” The well-known “Last Request by Westall; “Death of Nelson  by West; and “The Morning after Hastings by Woollier; also Robertsons “ Hic Jacet, a gift from the painter. We leave this part of the building, return to the Hall, pass through the door which faces us on the opposite side, and enter the

Museum.

In view of the fact that before many months, possibly weeks, portions of the New Technical College and Museum building will be opened, great alterations are taking place in every department. It is therefore impossible to say that the present arrangement of exhibits will hold good for a great length of time. We will, however, give the visitor a general idea of what is to be seen in the Museum. Many years ago there existed in Liverpool a small Museum in which was shown a collection made by the 13th Earl Derby. Derby's The present Museum was built by Sir Museum William Brown, a Liverpool merchant (whose portrait we referred in the “Brown Reading Room), at his sole expense, and opened in i860. Earl Derbys exhibits were then placed in this building.

Mr. Joseph Mayer, a silversmith of Liverpool, made a collection which was on view in Colquitt Street. He generously thought fit in 1867 to place as a gift his entire collection in the hands of the Liverpool Corporation. These exhibits also were then transferred to the present Museum. Here we have the nucleus of the present Galleries. It is interesting to note Mr. Mayer’s own words on the lid of a box of coins, which is to be seen in one of the “ Mayer ” sections : 

“ Part of a hoard of Roman coins with bits of the vase which contained them, found whilst ploughing on the farm of Mr. Taylor at Little Madeley, 1817. Mr. Taylor gave me part of what I picked up, and my grandfather promised me a crown if I would-read the inscription in a month, which I got. These reliques were the first I possessed, being found while shooting rabbits with my grandfather in the adjoined field when they were picked up. This incident made me an antiquarian student. Madeley is near Chesterton. (Mediolanum) Joseph Mayer.”

We first enter the “ Derby ” Museum. This “Derby” chiefly comprises the Natural History Section of the exhibits. Here we have well set up specimens of the British barn owl, sparrow hawk, nightjar, heron, moor hen, rock pigeon, and other well-known birds.

At the Top left hand side of this hall we enter Rooms devoted to the exhibit of the mammals (the highest class of vertebrates). Those who care to ponder over the connecting links between man and the lower brute creation, can here appreciate the skeletons of man and apes, and study the interesting skulls and faces. In these rooms many rare animals are on view—some extinct. The whales are interesting. In the fifth Room, the fine minerals are well worth close inspection. Observe the agates particularly. It will be advisable to return through the “ Derby ” Museum, and go up the main Staircase. When half way we pass a beautiful clock by George Eccles, 1894, and above it there hangs a “Crucifixion,” by W.Hilton. On reaching the wide Landing which runs all round the “Derby” Hall, we see cases of exhibits containing all kinds of creatures—birds, plants, and fish, making us think with Aristotle, 

“There are many marine creatures which leave the observer in doubt as to whether they are plants or animals.” 

Here, at the opposite side of the Landing, is a fine fossil tree (palm), which was found at a Wigan coal pit. Interesting Galleries are these “ Bird ” rooms, which surround the Central Mayer Museum. Notice in these the Albatross and Frigate Bird, and the Giant Crab from Japan.


The Central Mayer Museum.

This is by far the most interesting and the best lighted part of the Museum. The objects here are set out on three floors. Passing from the Bird Gallery to the Top Floor Central Mayer Museum, we see a splendid collection of ware, pottery, and china; the ware of Aaron Wedgwood, and Enoch Wood; the “Queen's ware, and Red ware, and the finest original Jonah Wedgwood ware in the country. On this floor also are Wedgwood most interesting pieces of Sadler’s Liverpool ware (made on the site of this Museum); 'Piles: imitation Dutch “Delft” ware; a “West prospect of Great Crosby in 1716;” Turner and Mayer pottery ; Bow, Chelsea, Derby, Worcester, and Bristol porcelain, and also a goodly array of foreign manufacture. Here, too, is a most interesting collection of Cameos of “ Illustrious Moderns.”

Middle Floor Central Mayer Museum.

This is full of interesting exhibits. Joseph Mayer’s “Personal Relics,” amongst which we note, “ Boots and Gloves worn by King Henry VI. after the Battle of Hexham, May 15th, 1463;” Cap and Gloves worn by Lord Byron in Greece ; Walking Cane of William IV.; Bobby Burns Candlestick and a Crosby Race Card for 1777; the Bonaparte curiosities ; fine Miniature and Revolutionary Badges; magnificent Ivories, Diptychs, and work of 7th to 11h centuries, Byzantine, Carvings German, and Anglo-Saxon; work of 14th to 16th centuries, English, German, French, and Spanish ; also Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Persian carvings. Armorial Badges, Seals, etc.; Pilgrims’ signs; Enamels on copper, limoges, 11th to 13th centuries; beautiful mediaeval Manuscripts, and illuminated “ Breviaries,” “ Books of Hours,” and Psalters. In addition to these, the Rolfe and Faussett collections of British antiquities; (Mr. Mayer’s Coin Box is in this section) a very fine Exeter Clock ; and a collection of Japanese Armour, Oriental Glass, and some musical instruments.

Ground Floor Central Mayer Museum.

Here we go back to Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; we are surrounded by Mummies, Sepulchral Tablets, Vases, mummified Cats, small Crocodiles, Hawks, and various sacred animals. Chief amongst the exhibits is the massive red granite Sarcophagus of Bakenhonsu, 1,200 B.C.; on the lid is a figure of the goddess Mut, with prayer and dedication ; at the sides, lower down, the god Thoth and the genii of the Amenti are represented. Note also the Sepulchral Tablet with dedications to Osiris and Anubis for Tutankh; portrait head and Cartouche of King Rameses II., 19th Dynasty, B.C. 1324-1219; a Coffin in scyamore wood, time 25th Dynasty; a marble slab, with footmarks of Pilgrims to a sacred shrine; fragments of Papyrus ; Greek Vases ; sculptures and pottery from Cyprus ; Roman and Greek antiquities and Sepulchral Urns; and Phoenician glass. From this Ground Floor Museum we pass to The Aquarium, and to the Ethnographical Gallery, in which are seen some relics of the John Franklin Expedition; amongst them a tracing of “The Record of the Expedition,” found in a cairn on Point Victory, framed in wood made from the Franklin boat found on the shores of King William Island, and a piece of copper from the same. In this Gallery we see the implements for war and for sport of the world’s inhabitants, from New Zealand to the Arctic Regions. The Esquimaux in his furs, and the native of the Torrid Zone in his feathers, hideous fetishes of uncivilized man, and the Maori with his disfigured tattooed face, are all represented. In fine, we notice curiosities from all parts of the world.

A word in conclusion about the Technical Schools. This building has been erected from the design of Mr. W. Mountford, at the junction of Byrom Street and William Brown Street, at a cost of £100,000. 'The upper floors are to form an addition to the present Museum, and the other rooms will be used for various classes, etc., in connection with the College.





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