The Historical Collections of the R.U.S.I.
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The Historical Collections of the R.U.S.I.David ErskinePublished online: 11 Sep 2009.
To cite this article: David Erskine (1969) The Historical Collections of the R.U.S.I., Royal United Services Institution. Journal,114:653, 64-65, DOI: 10.1080/03071846909423509
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THE HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF THE R.U.S.I.
Recent Transfers and Disposals
By DAVID ERSKINE
URING the past few years circumstances have forced a change in the Councils policy towards the retention D oforiginal historical material. It should be remembered that, until the formation of the Imperial War Museum in 1919, the R.U.S.I.s collection in the Banqueting House constituted the sole Service museum (other than the Tower Armouries) in the capital. In 1935 the National Maritime Museum a t Greenwich was formed, and since the last war the National Army Museum at Camberley and the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon have come into being. In 1962 the R.U.S.I.s collection of uniforms and relics had to be dispersed when the Banqueting House was taken back by the Government, and from that time on the Institution ceased to collect further exhibits.
The present position is that there now exists a professionally staffed museum for each of the three Services, and from 1970, when the National Army Museums new building a t Chelsea opens, all four museums dealing with the Services and their histories will be easily accessible from Central London.
During the discussions on the reorganisation of the Institution the Council, on the advice of the Journal, Library and Lecture Committee, decided that in future there would no longer be space in the building to maintain the Map Room or the Manuscripts Room, nor was there any prospect of employing trained staff to look after the contents. I t was therefore decided to dispose of these two collections. In addition the formation of the National Army Museum had created an institution far better fitted for the study of the iiiiiiutiae of historic uniforms, colours, etc., and it was therefore further agreed that the origittal niaterial relating to these subjects should be transferred to the National Army Museum.
The R.U.S.I. will maintain in the Library a thoroughly comprehensive collection of printed ir*orks on dress and other aspects of military antiquarianism, and steps are being taken to ensure that this collection meets the needs of members.
A full list of the recent disposals from the Institution follows.
The Map Room The Atlas Colleclioti: the Institution was advised that
this collection was not of such a unique character as t o warrant it being first offered to another national institution; consequently it was sold by auction at Sotherbys on 30th October 1967, making over 12,000.
TIC Sheet hlap Collection: this very important collection, containing many manuscript maps of the 18th and 19th centuries, which was totally unused by the membership and which had suffered considerable deterioration in the London atmosphere, was valued by Maggs Bros., acting on behalf of the R.U.S.I. and the British Museumjointly. The Museum subsequently purchased the collection at the valuation of f45,577.
Adiiiiralty Charts: up to about 1960 the Institution used to be supplied free with all charts issued by the Hydrographers Department. This large collection, which contained very few early issues, proved un- saleable, and was transferred by way of gift to the National Maritime Museum.
The Manuscript Collection This had been accumulated since the foundation of
the R.U.S.I. in 1831 and contained much material of national importance, some of it unlisted until quite recently. It was divided into a Naval and a Military collection.
Naval Collectioii: this was transferred iii toto to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, with the important exception of all the Sigrid Books and
Fighting Itutriictioiis, which have been transferred to the Naval Library, Ministry of Defence (in Empress Building, Earls Court), successor to the former Admiralty Library. The only item retained by the R.U.S.I. is the signal book of the U.S.S. Chesapeake, taken in action with 1-I.M.S. Sliaiiitoii, and formerly on display in the Museum.
hlilitary Collectioti: the main bulk of this has gone to the National Army Museum, but for some items more suitable homes were selected. (i) All items relating to the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45 were transferred to the Imperial War Museum. These included the Entry Book for the Gestapo Prison in Berlin, listing those arrested in the plot of 20th July 1944. (ii) the papers of the following individuals were transferred to the repositories shown:
Field-Marshal Viscount Wolseley : to the Hove Public Library, to join the rest of the Wolseley archive, after listing by the National Register of Archives.
Sir Charles James Napier: to the British Museum, to join the other Napier papers held there.
Major F. C. H. Clarke (Surveyor and Staff College lecturer) to the Royal Geographical Society.
The Duke of Montagu (d. 1749), Master-General of the Ordnance: returned to the donor the Duke of Buccleuch.
Major-General H. G. Hart, editor and proprietor of Harts Artiiy List: to the Public Record Office.
Gerald Leather, editor of The St. Georges Gazette: to the Museum of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, Fenham Barracks, Neweastle-upon-Tyne.
Two account books of the firm of White & Humfrays (later Hunter), 1774-1879, in account with
the Great Wardrobe and Lord Chamberlain: to the Royal Archives, Windsor Castle.
Separate from the Manuscript collections were the Papers of Vice-Ahziral J.E.T. Harper, relating to the Oficial Record of the battle of Jutland. With the approval of the Harper family these have been deposited at the British Museum, where their reference number is Add. Mss. 54477-54480. At the same time the principal document in these papers was published in the Navy Records Societys The Jellicoe Papers, vol. 11.
The Library It must be emphasised that no printed works, other
than duplicates, have been disposed of from the Library. The following origiiial iiiaterial relating to dress and colours has been transferred to the National Army Museum:
The records of the Cetisirs of Regitiietital Colours, carried out by the R.U.S.I. in the 1930s.
The records of the Utiiforiii Coniniittee, which ceased to function in the 1940s.
3 vols. on the dress of the Madras Army. 1 vol. on the dress of the 16th Light Cavalry (LA.),
1 vol. on the dress and standards of the 4th Cavalry
Costurrzes of the Madras Army, water-colours by
5 vols. of notes on dress by Hastings Irwin. Various postcard and cigarette card albums. 10 Pattern books, including 3 vols. on Yeomanry
Uniforms, 6 tailors miscellaneous books, and a folder of patterns for cavalry shabracks.
3 Sealed pattern books for Drummers fringes, 1857; and Drummers lace 1860-1871 and 1859.
(I .A .) . Thomas James Ryves.
In addition the Library held the collection of Colonel Cyril Field, historian of the Royal Marines. His seventeen albums of postcards of British and Foreign uniforms, with three scrapbooks, have gone to the National Army Museum, while one scrapbook and the four extra-illustrated volumes of the type- script of his Britains Sea-Soldiers have gone to the Museum of the Royal Marines, Eastney Barracks, Sout hsea.
Finally, much loose unindexed photographic and illustrative material, the bulk of it in very poor condition, has been transferred to the appropriate Service museum.