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Curators call for efforts to protect heritage
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-18 00:00

Nearly 200 curators from home and abroad participating in a forum Monday in Beijing appealed for the world museum circle to make more efforts to preserve intangible heritage from the threat of cultural homogenization.

National Museum of China Executive Director Zhu Fenghan said that museums should adopt a global concept of heritage which includes both intangible and material heritage.

"A museum is not only a space where material evidence of the past is collected, conserved and displayed,'' Zhu said. "The practices, ideas, knowledge and skills associated with these physical objects should also be protected."

He remarked that protecting the value of cultural heritage rather than the collections themselves is at the core of heritage preservation for museums.

"In a modern museum, any material objects must exist within the connections with other elements,'' Zhu said. "And it is in these material and intangible connections that an object is endowed with a specific cultural meaning."

Monday's forum was part of the activities to celebrate the International Museum Day, which is today every year. Participants also discussed other topics such as museum operation, museum collection policies, and using digital technology in preservation work.

Palace Museum Deputy Director Li Wenru said that museums, which have been long regarded as a public welfare undertaking, should take an active part in the profit-making cultural industry of a market economy.

"Museums are inconsumable and unchangeable,'' Li said. But we can try to create a kind of 'consumable museum' that can be bought and taken home by visitors."

"These products, containing rich heritage information, can not only bring profits to museums but spread historical knowledge among people."

He said his museum could develop cultural enterprise groups of the Imperial Palace and industrial chains, which could make a profit of over 100 million yuan (US$12.1 million) every year.

"If the Imperial Palace Cultural Industry Group would become a famous listed enterprise in the future, it would have a huge social effect to promote Chinese cultural around the world," said Li.

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