A museum is a building or place which houses objects of interest – whether they are historical, artistic, cultural or scientific – and is open to the public.
A MUSEUM is hardly a source of controversy, except in present-day Hong Kong. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (林鄭月娥) surprised the city by announcing last month that Hong Kong will build its own version of Beijing’s renowned Palace Museum. If she had meant it to be a Christmas present, it backfired.
What is the fuss all about?
THE secrecy and timing ruffled some people’s feathers. The museum plan was disclosed without public consultation. The mini Palace Museum will be built in the West Kowloon Cultural District, but critics say the project does not fit in with the original plans for the area. Some suggest that Lam, pictured, is championing the venture to strengthen her credentials among some Election Committee members should she run for chief executive.
How is Lam selling the plan?
THE museum costs HK$3.5 billion, but taxpayers will not be footing the bill. The tab will be picked up by the Jockey Club. As such, the government does not need the approval of lawmakers. Officials insist that the project will boost cultural cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland. In an attempt to win support, the government did a U-turn and launched a six-week public consultation yesterday.
Will HK’s version be a success?
OFFICIALS are confident that the SAR’s Palace Museum will be a crowd-puller. The Beijing landmark has loaned Hong Kong priceless items on various occasions, and these special exhibitions have drawn large crowds. One such display – on the weddings of Qing dynasty emperors – is currently open to the public at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum until 27 February.
What can we expect then?
IT can be safe to say that there will be more of the same when the Hong Kong version opens in 2022 as planned. Instead of small collections, we can expect the mother museum in the capital to loan many priceless objects for longer periods. After all, there will be a need to fill the 10,000-square-metre site area.
Related words and phrases
Palace Museum 故宮博物館
Forbidden City 紫禁城
West Kowloon Cultural District 西九文化區
cultural hub 文化中心
Election Committee 選舉委員會
chief executive 行政長官
Jockey Club 賽馬會
public funds 公眾資金
Qing dynasty 清朝
permanent exhibition 常設展覽
roving exhibition 流動展覽
HK Heritage Museum 香港文化博物館
1. Why do you think the government kept the Palace Museum project under wraps until an agreement was signed in Beijing in late December?
2. Do you think the secrecy was warranted? Would you have liked to have a say?
3. Can you think of other situations where the government could decide on projects without consulting the public or lawmakers?
4. Would you welcome a mini Palace Museum? State your reasons.
5. Do you think Hong Kong has too many museums? Is there room for more?