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Identity statement

Reference code(s)
George III Museum
Level of description
Collection (fonds)
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
4 boxes (0.04 cubic metres)


Name of creator(s)

George III Museum, Kew Observatory, Richmond

Administrative / Biographical history

The collection of scientific instruments accumulated by King George III and others was at one time housed in the King's private observatory, Richmond, Surrey (later known as Kew Observatory), built in 1769 to observe the transit of Venus, and included measurement devices such as clocks, thermometers and barometers, mechanical demonstration equipment including spring balances, levers and an Archimedes screw, electrical apparatus including Leyden jars, electroscopes and batteries; and navigational and astronomical instruments including globes, orreries, theodolites and telescopes. The collection was dispersed in 1841 with a small part remaining at Kew and elements going to the British Museum or Armagh Observatory. However, the bulk of its contents were donated by Queen Victoria to King's College London for public display and use in scientific demonstrations and experiments.

Archival history

The collection was donated by Queen Victoria in 1841 and transferred to King's College London from the Kew Observatory in the same year. The Museum opened two years later in 1843. The equipment was relocated to the Science Museum, South Kensington, London, on loan from King's College, in 1926. Papers relating to the collection were held by the Department of Physics, King's College, between 1926 and 1970 when they were transferred to the College Archives.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Department of Physics, King's College London.

Content & structure

Scope and content

The collection comprises manuscript notebooks, printed pamphlets, correspondence, a minute book, and photographic and other catalogues, 1768-1970. These notably include notebooks containing descriptions and viewing data relating to astronomical observations carried out at Kew Observatory, Richmond, Surrey, on behalf of King George III, with a printed pamphlet by Nevil Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal, entitled Observations of the transit of Venus over the Sun , 1768-1769; manuscript notebook containing measurements recorded during a test of the accuracy of the H5 chronometer designed by John Harrison, 1772; manuscript notebooks recording daily temperature, barometric, hygrometric and rainfall readings taken at Kew Observatory, Richmond, Surrey, 1773-1840; a printed pamphlet by George Atwood, Fellow of the Royal Society, entitled A Supplement to 'A treatise on the construction and properties of arches' (London, 1804), with manuscript dedication to King George III and related correspondence, 1804-1805; a folio signature book of visits by dignitaries to the George III Museum, 1843-1929; manuscript diary describing the work of the George III Museum including the upkeep of equipment and use of exhibits in experiments, 1850-1880; manuscript minutes of the George III Museum Committee charged with managing the collection, 1880-1885; catalogues relating to the collection, [1841-1970]; correspondence by George Calver, astronomer, relating to telescope design, 1897; series of copper plates and labels advertising the George III Museum, [1841-1926].

System of arrangement

Broadly chronological.

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Director of Archive Services.

Language/scripts of material

English and French.

Finding aids

Collection level description online and due to be published in hard copy. Detailed list available in hard copy in the College Archives reading room, King's College London.

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals

King's College London College Archives

Related units of description

King's College London College Archives: Wheatstone collection contains material relating to the George III Museum (Ref: Wheatstone 6/1), also King's College Council Special Committee (KA/CS/M1), College in-correspondence (KA/IC/G17).

Publication note

Catalogue of physical apparatus etc., in the King George III Museum (London, 1901); John Anthony Chaldecott, Handbook of the King George III collection of scientific instruments (London, 1951).

Description control

Archivist's Note

Sources: Catalogue of physical apparatus etc., in the King George III Museum (London, 1901); John Anthony Chaldecott, Handbook of the King George III collection of scientific instruments (London, 1951); British Library OPAC. Entry compiled by Geoff Browell.

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

Date(s) of descriptions

13 November 2000


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  • Astronomical observatories
  • Catalogues
  • Equipment
  • Meteorological data
  • Meteorology
  • Museum administration
  • Museum collections
  • Museum facilities
  • Museum policy
  • Museums
  • Science museums
  • Scientific equipment
  • Scientific facilities
  • Secondary documents
  • Specialized museums

Personal names

  • Atwood, George, 1745-1807, Fellow of the Royal Society
  • Calver, George, 1834-1927, Telescope maker
  • Harrison, John, 1693-1776, Clockmaker
  • Maskelyne, Nevil, 1732-1811, Astronomer

Corporate names

  • George III Museum
  • Kew Observatory, Richmond
  • King's College London College Archives

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