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Museums more than just revenue source PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 05 May 2008

by Sara Farr

Museums are more than just a means of revenue, but a place of culture and learning, Joao Costa Antunes, director of the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO) said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters at the Museums Fair of Macau, Hong Kong and Guangzhou held yesterday afternoon at the Taipa Houses Museum, Costa Antunes said museums should be about spreading culture and enlightening the public on history and the past, rather than a means of revenue.
The event which this year also included the participation of museums from neighbouring regions such as Hong Kong and Guangzhou is held annually in Macau, and has been celebrated around the world since 1977.
According to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), “each year, a theme is decided on by the museum professionals to meet the public and alert them to the challenges that museums face if they are to be… an institution in the service of society and of its development.”
This year's topic or motto, according to the international council is “museums are an important means of cultural exchange , enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, co-operation and peace among peoples.”
For this year's international day, Hugues de Varine, consultant and former director of ICOM, examined the role of museums as a social agent of development.
Varine states that both “UNESCO and ICOM started to examine the role played by museums in developing countries seeking a cultural independence to go hand in hand with their political independence.”
Currently, regional development has become a major concern for political authorities, Varine argues, adding that “the traditional museum has other priorities since it is enclosed in a building and its vocation is to concentrate on enriching its collections and attracting tourists.”
Following this, this year Macau decided to host the Museums Fair at the Taipa Houses Museum in order to “diversify, and show visitors other aspects of the city, rather than just a building or infrastructure,” Costa Antunes said.
Tang Hoi Chui, chief curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, said yesterday that the site chosen for this year's activity was “very romantic,” adding that the first time he had been there, there was no sight of the mega-casino Venetian Macau.
“Macau is now a world heritage site… it's very nice, and once the Science Museum is complete it will surely be a landmark,” Tang said.
He also backed up Costa Antunes' statement that museums were meant to be a source for cultural and historical exchange and enlightenment.
“It is very important to regard museums as a cultural spot… Although revenue is also important, there needs to be a balance between the two.”
According to Tang, in Hong Kong there is such a balance between cultural and revenue sources.
One of the aims of hosting such an activity every year is to exchange opinions and experiences with each region involved, as well as discuss with locals, museums' opening hours, the “museum pass” and the possibility of free entry.
These three points of discussion, Costa Antunes said, are to go in line with the fact that museums are to be meant as a cultural source rather than a font of revenue.
In his examination, Varine argues that the “exchange of services [between museums] need to be increased, and they should not be restricted to international or national meetings, which admittedly are useful but tend to lead to declarations rather than co-operative projects.”
However, Macau, Hong Kong and Guangzhou have established an exchange program where each city will have their museums publicised in the other two cities in order to improve museums' development and systems, Costa Antunes added.
International Museum Day is May 18 and all museums in the SAR will open its doors to the public free of charge.

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