Government ignores advice to set up museums board

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 November, 2009, 12:00am

The government is unlikely to take its advisers' recommendations to set up a statutory board that will take over management of public museums from bureaucrats and overhaul museums policy.

Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing told lawmakers at the home affairs panel yesterday that establishing an independent board would be a big move that needed careful consideration.

Rather than present a blueprint for the development of public museums as Legco had requested, Tsang instead put forward more immediate measures, such as inviting guest curators, arranging curator internships and outreach educational activities, and collaborating with business and community groups in organising exhibitions.

'A statutory museums board would impact on the mode of operations, human resources, financial arrangements, ownership rights of collections and curatorship,' Tsang said. He would announce a decision on whether to set up the board in three months, he said.

The panel's vice-chairwoman, Tanya Chan, said Tsang's remarks were disappointing and, if a statutory board were not adopted, he would have to explain why.

The museums board was recommended by two different groups of advisers in 2000 and 2007 during reviews of the city's cultural policy.The body would encourage flexibility and creativity, the advisers said.

It would be led by professionals, draw up a research-based development strategy and allocate resources among museums, with more aggressive marketing to raise patronage.

A new museums law would inspire public confidence in overall museums management, attract corporate donations and promote curatorial independence, the advisers said.

At present, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department manages 14 museums.

The government has been accused of being inflexible and mismanaging collections in recent years.

In August, the department admitted that 21 items linked to Republic of China founder Sun Yat-sen had been missing for three years from its storage area.

In February, film star Jackie Chan spoke of his frustrations over decade-long talks with the government on a new museum to house his collections of historic wooden houses.

Andrew Lam Siu-lo, a member of the committee on museums that proposed the board idea, said the existing scene lacked vibrancy and character, and there was no mechanism to deal with private donations. 'There is an absolute need for the board, and to co-ordinate operations between these museums and the future flagship in West Kowloon so that they don't overlap,' said Lam, also a member of the board for the arts hub project.