Small Museums Struggle for New Development
   2013-11-26 21:13:54      Web Editor: Guo

The Shijiazhuang Municipal Museum of Hebei Province displays folk custom collections in its hall. This photo, taken on November 19, 2013, shows a traditional living room of a common rural family. [Photo: Jing]

Large museums are always proud of their big collection and the priceless status of their artifacts. However, for those small museums in second and third tier cities, the lack of collection and visitors is a significant problem these institutions have to face.

CRI's Li Ningjing will give you a close look at the Municipal Museum in Shijiazhuang, capital city of north China's Hebei Province. 


Built in 1989, the Shijiazhuang Municipal Museum is quite advanced compared to its counterparts; though occupying only 6,300 square kilometers, the three-story museum has its own notable features.

Wang Jian, director of the museum, introduces this small, but unique, museum.

"As Shijiazhuang was the first city liberated from the civil war in 1948, the regional government of north China presented its great sum of cultural relics to its capital city--Shijiazhuang--before moving to Beijing. Thus, we were lucky enough to inherit the very first 'red' relics collection of a new China."

Along with inheriting a key part of its collection from the former government, the museum also successfully purchased some valuable items at very low prices.

"About 10 years ago, we purchased a clay kettle shaped like the head of a rooster from the East Jin Dynasty at only 400 yuan. Eight years ago, we bought a 50-thousand-year-old mammoth tusk from a farmer at 2,000 yuan--that's really a bargain price."

However, most of the relics discovered in the city have to be delivered to the provincial museum. The relatively small collection and scarce capital are the two toughest problems facing the municipal museum. Though its proposal on a new site has been delivered and is likely to be approved, obstacles still emerge.

Lu Aijun, curator of Shijiazhuang Museum, expresses his worries.

"Actually, we have stored many valuable pieces, but it may cost several million yuan and quite some time to properly put them on display. If the proposal on the new museum is approved during this time, such a huge sum of money will be a waste. So, we postponed the new exhibition of treasured relics."

A small exhibiting area, a small collection on display and capital shortage seems to restrain the development of institutions like the municipal museum. Nevertheless, heads of the museum spare no effort to seek new opportunities.

Wang Jian says they are now collecting items of folk customs from the local people.

"We have spent about three years purchasing items from farmers; about 20 thousand pieces of farming tools and daily necessities that are on the verge of extinction. This is a good way to save future relics."

Now, some of the typical items are displayed in the exhibiting hall of Shijiazhuang Museum, including paper lanterns, paper-cut art, dough sculptures and farm tools that most young people have never seen. This exhibition is widely welcomed by both old and young visitors.

The folk custom collection is only a small part of Wang's push to build a museum that records the footprints of the city. He initiated the transformation of the old railway station into a city museum, retaining the old platform and a part of the rails, collecting various kinds of motors from different times, and setting up entertainment areas for visitors.

Wang is looking forward to the new era of the small municipal museum and accumulating items for a comprehensive show of the history of Shijiazhuang City.

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