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Shanghai to open 100th museum this year
By Zou Huilin (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-05 05:57

SHANGHAI: The city's ambitions do not stop at being an international economic hub. Shanghai is also aiming to become a cultural centre of global importance.

One obvious sign of that goal is the growing number of museums in the city.

In 2000 the municipal government set a target of 100 museums in Shanghai by 2005, an aspiration which has since been updated to 150 by 2010.

Chen Xiejun, deputy director of the Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage, the office in charge of administration of the city's museums, insists the goals are not the unrealistic ambitions of senior officials and that the city is on course for 100 such sites by the end of the year.

Statistics from the municipal Civil Affairs Bureau, show that on average each year Shanghai will see more than 20 new museums opening their doors .

By the end of 2004, the city already boasted 91 museums.

But concerns have been raised over the financial viability of so many facilities in just one city.

According to insiders , the annual cost of operating all 150 museums could exceed 800 million yuan (US$96.39 million).

Zhou Lizhong, chief of the museum and memorial administration division of the Bureau of Cultural Heritage, believes such concerns are unnecessary saying government funding and the museums' own ability to raise money will cover costs.

The current 90-plus museums can be categorized into three types: public museums supported by the local government, industrial museums sponsored by the industries they represent, and privately-owned museums.

Insiders disclosed that national-level museums such as the Shanghai Museum receive financial support amounting to tens of millions of yuan per year.

For city or district-level museums funding can exceed 100,000 yuan (US$12,000).

An official surnamed Huang from Shanghai Civil Affair Bureau said the basic requirement for opening a museum is that it should have registered capital of 100,000 yuan (US$12,000).

According to experts 100,000 yuan is not enough to open a museum and the successful operation of a site relies on attracting large numbers of visitors.

Insiders say that of the 100 museums due to be open by the end of the year, more than 50 per cent are publicly owned and funded by the local government.

The rest of the museums are mainly industrial museums. Thanks to sponsorship from trade unions and leading companies, their operation is usually very smooth.

For example, Shanghai Banking Museum, the first of its kind and currently the only one in the country, occupies 1,500 square metres of the city's most expensive area, the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone. Insiders say the museum's major investor is the financially strong Shanghai branch of the China Industrial and Commercial Bank.

A manager from the museum surnamed Wang disclosed it was opened in 2000 with investment in exhibits alone totalling almost 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million).

Not including individuals, visitors in delegations touring the museum in a professional capacity have numbered over 10,000 each year, Wang added.

Chen Xiejun noted that industrial museums should take the lead in future development plans.

(China Daily 05/05/2005 page2)

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