Plan for museums to earn and keep outside income
Reforms needed for institutions' survival, says academic
The city's museums will be able to broaden their income sources by seeking sponsorship and patronage and changing admission charges under Home Affairs Bureau proposals in a Legislative Council paper to be discussed on Friday.
The paper proposes allowing museums to operate with an independent accounting system and retain revenue.
A museums board would also be established to manage all public museums in the hope of improving the quality of their services and attendance rates.
The paper says the bureau will review museum governance and set up the board in three years.
The move comes after the bureau accepted the recommendations from the museum committee, which was set up in 2004.
'We will review the vision of individual museums taking into account the proposed institutional change in relation to museum governance,' the bureau's paper says.
The city's public museums are managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
The Hong Kong Curators Association, which has 150 members, including staff from public and private museums, expressed concerns over the plan to establish the museums board.
'The bureau only says it will set up the board. But it says nothing about how it will be established,' chairman Chan Ki-hung said.
'Who will be the board members and how will these members be selected and what kind of authority will the board enjoy?
'Will these members be appointed by the government? What is the relationship between the museums and the board? These are all unanswered questions.
'It seems that the board will be operating like the Hospital Authority. We are not against making changes, we just want to make sure these changes will help improve services,' he said.
The director of the architectural conservation programme at Hong Kong University, Lee Ho-yin, shared Mr Chan's concern.
'It is important to have board members who have vision about how to manage museums,' Dr Lee said. 'The function of museums is not just to exhibit collections or educate the public; it has to be turned into entertainment to make it a success.'
Dr Lee said poor exhibits and services at the city's museums were the problem.
'The operation of public museums in the city has not been updated at all. They are still living in the 1980s. Exhibits are rarely changed and their quality is unimpressive. They are not national treasures that can capture public attention,' he said.
Sponsorship might be the only way out for Hong Kong public museums, allowing them to continue to operate, Dr Lee said.
'The most popular museums overseas are privately funded and operated, as financing museums is a huge investment,' he said. 'They will have to close if charges go up, as the public will not go there. The fees are low and already few people visit the museums.'
The number of museums managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department: 17