Transformation of museum services facilitate visual experience

By Chen Ziqi China Plus Published: 2018-05-01 13:34:37
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Reporter: Chen Ziqi; narrated by Zhang Wan

Inner Mongolia Museum [Photo: from VCG]

Inner Mongolia Museum [Photo: from VCG]

Nearly 5000 state-owned and private museums were registered across the country by the end of 2016, all with meaningful historical collections. Nowadays, with a rising trend in promoting historical relics, modern technology can help cultural enthusiasts to get greater access to collections. A series of transformation has been carrying out in this industry. 

Documentary National Treasure [Photo: screenshot from CCTV]

Documentary National Treasure [Photo: screenshot from CCTV]

Many museums have unique collections with tremendous value and a lot of history, and some precious relics have recently gone viral among the general public, thanks to several series of documentaries about Chinese relics launched on both TV channels and mainstream online video platforms, like National Treasure and Every Treasure Tells a Story.

Ma Xiaolin is director of the Henan Museum, and he says museum fever sparks people's interest and makes them more confident when talking about Chinese culture.

"We have seen a noticeable growth of visitors to our museum since the documentary National Treasure was broadcast last year, with 30% more and an even higher rate during the public holidays. After they've watched something on the TV, a lot of people are curious to see the real thing in person,” Ma Xiaolin says. 

Themed exhibition: Exhibition of Stone Sculptures and Stone of Carvings in Beihai Park, held in Feb 3 2018 in Beijing [Photo: from VCG]

Themed exhibition, for example, Exhibition of Stone Sculptures and Stone of Carvings, held in Feb 3, 2018 in the Beihai Park in Beijing. [Photo: from VCG]

The more visitors spend time in museums, the more they are keen to find out about the exhibits in detail, rather than just glancing at them as they would have done previously. It means the demand for visual experiences is higher. Wang Chunfa is director of the National Museum of China, and he says professionals are currently working on how to arrange exhibitions well.

"I think what matters the most to a museum is the ability to design themed exhibitions. An urgent challenge for us to overcome is to organize more thoroughly designed exhibitions to provide specific information for people who want to know about a certain period of history."

Professionals are also required to provide upgraded services and products so that people from all backgrounds can appreciate the museum's services. Liu Yuzhu is president of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

"We need to think about how to make our service audience-oriented, because visitors have various expectations when they explore museums. Our goal is for everyone in China to be interested in our 5000-year civilization,” Liu Yuzhu says, “To achieve it, our professionals need to develop creative thinking, like how to present collections, especially when we have such a tremendous number of exhibits. This is why we are currently trying to motivate professionals to be more active, creative and enthusiastic."

Nowadays visitors are able to interact with the historical relics in the Forbidden City, under support of modern technology, in a bid to help people have a more overall understanding about national treasures. [Photo: from IC]

Nowadays visitors are able to interact with the historical relics in the Forbidden City, under support of modern technology, in a bid to help people have a more overall understanding about national treasures. [Photo: from IC]

Museums across China are all emphasizing the adoption of modern technologies, like multi-media and immersive virtual reality technologies, to help make static historical relics and ancient articles with obscure words more approachable, as well as multiple ways to present relics. Wang Yamin is deputy director of the Palace Museum, and he says recent years have seen a vigorous development of using technology in exhibitions and digital products.

Digital version of Along the River during the Qingming Festival was exhibited in the China Arts Museum in Shanghai on Feb. 24 2018. [Photo: from IC]

Digital version of Along the River during the Qingming Festival was exhibited in the China Arts Museum in Shanghai on Feb. 24 2018. [Photo: from IC]

"We use modern technics to facilitate visual experiences for visitors in the Forbidden City. Meanwhile, we have released a number of smart phone applications to introduce some relics that have a profound history,” Wang Yamin says, “We are also making a digital version of an ancient painting masterpiece from the North Song Dynasty--the River during the Qingming Festival. On top of that, we are carrying out research into making static and solemn collections become mobile and the meanings they convey easier to understand," Wang Yamin says.

Young generations can learn profound Chinese civilization from Historical relics, like Terra-Cotta Warriors, displayed in the Shaanxi History Museum [Photo: from VCG]

Young generations can learn profound Chinese civilization from historical relics, like Terra-Cotta Warriors, displayed in the Shaanxi History Museum [Photo: from VCG]

While depending on professionals' strength to pass down Chinese civilization is not enough, it is significant in preparing youngsters to become potential inheritors and bring fresh ideas into this field. So says An Laishun, vice president of the International council of Museums. He also says cultural genes embodied in the museums can inspire Chinese youngsters to get ready.

"Museums are a significant carrier of culture, and they provide opportunities for people to learn about cultural heritage, make relics easier to understand and then pass on to future generations. Nowadays we definitely need cultural innovation, creating an entertaining and educational way to spread our relics wide. Young generations are certainly the hope for accomplishing this long-term mission. Before they are able to perform this task, youngsters can observe the essence of profound Chinese culture and history from museums and then become passionate and motivated about developing cultural innovation. This has a considerable influence on how we pass on our heritage," An Laishun says. 

Meanwhile, opinions and suggestions from visitors have been well received and are taken into consideration when it comes to how to improve the museum services, according to Ma Xiaolin, director from the Henan Museum. He recalls recently received a letter from a visitor. 

"I received a letter from a middle school student, in which he described his two experiences of visiting our museum. The first one was when he was little, and he said he felt scared when he saw a collection. Recently he saw it again, but he wasn't scared this time and had a totally different understanding. He also gave us some suggestions,” Ma Xiaolin says, “Letters from visitors always give us a lot to think about, and this time we need to work on how to provide an enjoyable and interesting experience for visitors of different ages. "

Age of the Empires: Chinese Art of the Qing & Han Dynasties was held in the Tisch Galleries in New York from April 3 to July 16, 2017. [Photo: from Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York]

Several cultural exhibitions have held in overseas countries, like Age of the Empires: Chinese Art of the Qing & Han Dynasties held in the Tisch Galleries in New York from April 3 to July 16, 2017. [Photo: from Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York]

China has been trying to expand its cultural exhibitions in other countries, and museums can play an unprecedented role in bridging people from different regions, and boosting mutual understanding. From 2011 to 2016, China held approximately 300 cultural exhibitions, most of them about promoting ancient Chinese historical relics. Wang Chunfa, director of the National Museum of China, says the next step is to promote relics with unique Chinese characteristics to overseas audiences.

"We are going to promote some relics to present the development of our country and the journey of the Chinese revolution to overseas audiences. Some adjustment will be made to make our exhibitions more locally appealing. We hope our tour exhibition will be successful."

The Chinese government and professionals from museums are devoting themselves to promoting historical relics among people from home and abroad, as well as developing attractive programs and products to draw attention from the public. Many more creative exhibitions and new concepts are soon to be laid out, as the Chinese civilization steps forward onto the world map.

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