Thousands of unlisted museum pieces gathering dust

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am

More than 700,000 artefacts in three public museums have not been documented, while an unknown number are being inadequately stored in containers or open areas, the Audit Commission has found.

Describing the findings as unsatisfactory, the commission said the collectibles were at risk of deterioration due to the lack of care and proper conservation.

The unlisted items account for 46 per cent of the total held by the three museums - the Hong Kong Film Archive, the Museum of History and the Heritage Museum.

The audit report criticised the museums for their lack of clear stocktaking rules and a failure to conduct surprise checks on artefacts, despite reports of missing items in the past.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which administers 14 museums, promised to review stocktaking rules and said it would formulate a plan to catalogue unlisted items. It also proposed building a central storage repository in Tuen Mun.

Of the 713,578 undocumented items, about 436,200 were owned by the Hong Kong Film Archive, 257,780 by the Museum of History, and 19,598 by the Heritage Museum. About 39 per cent had been kept for five or more years.

A lack of space forced some museums to store collectibles off-site in shipping containers, or even in open spaces.

The Museum of Art has three container loads in Tsim Sha Tsui, while the Museum of History has one in its car park. About 1,200 military items are being stored in an open area next to the Museum of Coastal Defence, while a train carriage has been left in an open area in Lam Tin.

The first double-decker bus introduced to Hong Kong in 1949 was donated to the government in 1983, but has never been displayed as there is no space to accommodate it. The bus is still being kept by Kowloon Motor Bus.

The commission said six museums had 209,000 copies of unsold publications in storage - such as exhibition programmes - worth $24 million. About 67 per cent had been kept for more than five years.

The commission also urged the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to review its often unmet target of 30 per cent cost-recovery for individual exhibitions.

Yeung Chun-tong, director of the Hong Kong University's University Museum and Art Gallery, said a lack of space was a global problem facing museums.

'Lack of manpower and resources, rather than mismanagement, could be the cause for excessive backlog of items,' he said.




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