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Museum Of Mankind: Future

Volume 547: debated on Friday 9 July 1993

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What is their policy for the future of the Museum of Mankind.

My Lords, the future of the Museum of Mankind is a matter for the trustees of the British Museum. The museum submitted proposals to my department for the relocation of the ethnography collection to Bloomsbury when the British Library moves to St. Pancras. We are considering that proposal.

My Lords, does my noble friend realise that the trustees of the British Museum are champing at the bit to divest themselves of the need for 6 Burlington Gardens? The Royal Academy and the Architectural Foundation, backed by the Royal Fine Art Commission, are equally keen to see set up an architectural centre, similar to the Pavillon d'Arsenal in Paris, where architectural projects, lectures and seminars can be held. Does my noble friend realise that the whole project could go ahead if it received the blessing of Her Majesty's Government?

My Lords, the British Museum submitted a proposal to the department for the relocation of the collection to Bloomsbury as part of the option for the utilisation of space vacated by the British Library. The British Library is not scheduled to vacate Bloomsbury until 1996. The Secretary of State for National Heritage met with representatives of the Architectural Foundation. We support the principle of an architectural centre for London and I am sure that the Government will study any proposals carefully.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the building to be vacated— sooner or later—by the Museum of Mankind has been seriously proposed as a home for the important and large Khalili collection of Islamic art, which is currently on offer as a free loan to the nation? Can the Minister confirm that that offer also is receiving serious and urgent attention so that the nation does not lose the Khalili collection as it lost the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection?

My Lords, a number of parties are interested in Burlington Gardens, including the Royal Academy. We have had a number of proposals from other national museums in addition to the proposal from Dr. Khalili. Any decision on the future of the property is for the Secretary of State. who will consider all proposals carefully.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his encouraging reply Will he hear in mind that the natural geographical and cultural link is between the Royal Academy and the present Museum of Mankind, rather than with some potential collection of Islamic art?

My Lords, my noble friend makes an observation which adds to the debate. I am sure that the Secretary of State will consider carefully what has been said in your Lordships' House.