Maritime museum has high hopes for new home
The city's maritime museum expects to welcome 200,000 visitors per year to its new harbourfront home in Central when it opens in January, a five-fold increase on the attendance at its present home in Stanley.
The privately owned museum has welcomed about 35,000 visitors per year since it opened in 2005, but its Murray House base will close in six weeks to prepare for the HK$116 million move to Pier 8 at Central.
Its state-of-the-art new base will allow the permanent collection to be arranged in chronological order, tracing 2,000 years of the region's maritime history.
There will also be two exhibition galleries for touring shows. A typical visit to the museum is expected to last between one and three hours.
'We want it to be an experience that will be educational and entertaining, full of interactive displays and a fun place to bring the family,' said Anthony Hardy, chairman of the museum's board.
The museum, which operates as a charity, was established in 2005 through donations from the shipping industry.
But maritime-history expert Professor James Chin Kong says it is time for the government to take over the museum, especially in light of the new cultural bureau planned by chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying.
Last week, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen confirmed plans had been drawn up by his successor for a cultural bureau.
'This is an important museum but so far, the government has left it as a private one. It would be much better if it was government-owned,' Chin said.
Hardy, who was part of the original team that lobbied the government for the museum's creation, said it was gratifying to see it move from the 5,000 sq ft space in Stanley to a 45,000 sq ft site in Central.
'None of us were museum people when we started, we were just enthusiastic amateurs,' Hardy said.
He described the current facility in Stanley as a 'boutique museum', with only about one-third of the collection on display.
Former museum director Stephen Davies has seen the collection grow from 600 items to about 2,000, and he will be penning the storylines that accompany the new displays.
He said that since it was a private museum, operating costs were about half of those at government-run museums, and while it cost HK$20 for an adult ticket to the current museum, the real economic cost of putting on the displays was between HK$180 and HK$200 per visitor.
Museum director Richard Wesley says the new museum will cost about HK$12 million to run each year and the government will provide about a third of this for the first five years.
Professor Bert Becker, a maritime historian at the University of Hong Kong, said the new location would 'help to further shape and strengthen Hong Kong's own identity in relation to mainland China, and enhance the territory's reputation as 'Asia's world city''.
In August 2010, the Town Planning Board approved the museum's relocation, with the Harbourfront Commission also endorsing the plan. The government provided capital funding of HK$114 million, with the museum contributing HK$2 million.
We want it to be an experience that will be educational and entertaining, full of interactive displays Board chairman Anthony Hardy
The real cost of putting on the museum displays, in Hong Kong dollars per visitor, according to its former director. A ticket costs HK$20