Adopting lively presentation approach

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 April, 1998, 12:00am

To avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the permanent exhibition to be staged at the new Museum of History, may I clarify the following points raised in Victoria Finlay's article headlined, 'A poor reflection of history' (South China Morning Post, March 13) and the subsequent response from an A-Level student (letter, Post, March 17).

The presentation approach of the exhibition is in line with that of modern history museums all over the world. As a public museum, we must adopt a lively presentation approach to attract people from all walks of life and arouse their interest in Hong Kong's history and heritage. The dioramas and historical settings in the various galleries are nevertheless based on real examples and they all have a story to tell. They are certainly not 'theme parks'.

The geological section at the beginning of the exhibition is designed to explain the formation of Hong Kong's landscape, with reference to 400 million years of geological history. Existing geological sites across the SAR are used as evidence to reconstruct the various palaeoenvironments, and the rock casting of these remote sites stands out to be the main feature of this gallery. Multimedia programmes along with rocks and fossils are used for illustration purposes.

The map at the entrance of the geological gallery is to show how Hong Kong's position changed over time as a result of the movement of the tectonic plate on which Hong Kong used to locate. The map is, therefore, useful in tracing Hong Kong's history of geological evolution.

The fauna and flora gallery seeks to reconstruct the pristine environment of Hong Kong 6,000 years ago. The trees in the Botanical Gardens or in our country parks are mostly exotic and planted, and they never look natural nor are found without human impact. At the gallery, the dioramas with replicas of local or endemic flora and fauna species show how Hong Kong was transformed in the past 6,000 years as a result of human activity. As the time span of the dioramas ranges from the last glacial period (around 10,000 years B.P. - before present) to the earliest human settlement (around 6,000 years B.P.), this 410-square-metre gallery, which takes up 5.6 per cent of the total exhibition area, has been given a reasonable amount of focus and space.

The history and folk customs of the boat people is one of many themes to be covered in the gallery on rural development and traditional culture.

The full-size fishing junk serves as an 'open showcase' to display the fishing gears and domestic wares used by the boat people.

The 'fishing ponds' in the Hoklo gallery as mentioned by Ms Finlay are actually salt pans. Salt-making was one of the few early industries in Hong Kong and had played a significant role in the development of the traditional economy.

Reconstruction of shops and shopfronts is one of the most effective display methods widely adopted by museums all over the world in recent years. Although building shopfronts is not a new idea, it is effective in creating the authentic environment of different commercial activities and industries as well as the social life of the people in past generations. The shops also provide space to house the extensive museum collection through which visitors can have a better understanding of the development of early economic activities in Hong Kong.

The modern history gallery actually accounts for more than 48 per cent of the total exhibition space, and provides more information than is proportional to the area allocated as multimedia displays are extensively used.

I must stress that while a history museum is not an encyclopedia on history, it is not a history textbook, either. The purpose of the exhibition at the new Hong Kong Museum of History is to give the public an overall picture of the history of Hong Kong in an entertaining manner so as to arouse public interest in and enhance their understanding of our past. We are confident that we shall achieve this goal.

JOSEPH TING Chief Curator Hong Kong Museum of History