Museums urged to help city grow

By Qin Zhongwei (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-08 08:15
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They can aid push for world-city status and become more relevant

Beijing's museums are like its calling card and should play a more active role in the capital's plan to become a world city, experts said during a forum on Friday.

Paal Mork, chairman of the marketing and public relations department at the International Council of Museums, said museums face new challenges and new opportunities when the urban environment changes and cities become more multicultural.

Mork made the remarks at Friday's Forum on Museums and Urban Culture Development, which drew delegates from countries including Brazil, Norway, Indonesia and Australia.

Museums should be able to reach out to new audiences when big cities internationalize, Mork said.

Feng Baohua, an expert on urban planning and culture design, explained how a museum improved the image of the city of Bilbao. The city, which had been an inconspicuous community in Spain, became a new hub for contemporary art after it built the Guggenheim Museum in 1997.

Compared with Bilbao, Beijing has many advantages in becoming culturally attractive, he said. He suggested the capital make the most of its resources.

"As an ancient Oriental city that has the world's largest palace complex, its museums should become the most proactive carrier of the city's glorious culture," Feng said.

The city currently has more than 150 registered museums, as well as a number of private museums that haven't been registered, according to Kong Fanzhi, director of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage.

The museums are dedicated to such subjects as history, art, science and architecture and some are housed in the former homes of well-known people.

Some museums, however, have been finding it difficult to draw visitors, especially the small and medium-sized ones and those run by non-profit societies.

According to Zhu Xintian, deputy director of the Oriental Art Museum of France, small and medium-sized museums can collaborate to co-host events or exhibitions, making them more relevant and better able to attract visitors.

"Which can therefore enlarge the impact of these institutions," he said.

And museums can also work closely with tourism authorities, Xiao Ruixia, from Beijing Art Museums, told METRO.

She said the majority of Beijing's museums are located in ancient temples or historic buildings and have great advantages because the buildings are worth seeing as well as the exhibits they house.

Jan Stuart, director of the Asia department at the British Museum, told METRO that Beijing's museums had greatly improved but could still be even better.

She said she was very impressed with the improvements in China. In the past, some very good exhibitions were poorly presented because the facilities were inadequate. Now, institutions such as the Capital Museum and Shanghai Museum rank among the best in the world in terms of infrastructure and the quality of exhibitions.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/08/2010)