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A museum here, a museum there, and pretty soon ...

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In Britain about 25 new museums are ``springing up'' each year: That's one every two weeks. ``The great growth area,'' says Caroline Dudley, Museums Officer for this country's Museums and Galleries Commission, ``is in very small museums put together by groups of local enthusiasts. The small village local history society is probably the source of most of the new museums these days.''

There are some 2,000 to 2,250 museums in Britain today. Only about a hundred of these count as large national institutions. And now, Ms. Dudley claims, ``there is a serious worry'' that many of these new museums ``have not got the resources - and are not doing things in the right way - to actually protect the items that they are collecting.''

There seem to be few limits to what people will collect and display in museums: They even hoard computers and objects made of early kinds of plastic. But most local museums are collecting ``domestic by-gones,'' says Ms. Dudley, ``and small archive material: anything from World War II ration books to ... you know. And then there are people who can't resist collecting old typewriters! It's endless.''

So the Museums and Galleries Commission is proposing a ``museum registration scheme.'' (The commission is a ``qango'' - a quasi non-governmental organization - and is responsible for distributing some 5.4 million worth of central-government grants to non-national museums.) The aim of the registration scheme is ``to draw up a set of criteria,'' says Ms. Dudley.

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