Hong Kong may be criticised by some as a cultural desert, but it has in recent months enjoyed a boom in museum visitor numbers, thanks to grand exhibitions of rare artefacts and relics brought in to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule. Among more than 1,200 local celebratory events planned for the whole of 2017, two museum shows already attracted more than 1.2 million visitors – roughly a third of total attendance at six major public museums in the city in the 2016-17 year. A four-month exhibition on ancient Egypt that featured mummies, which closed earlier this month, attracted a total of more than 850,000 visitors to the Science Museum. The number was equal to 70 per cent of the entire attendance of 2016 for the museum. Egyptian mummies from British Museum to go on display in Hong Kong’s Science Museum It was also the first time since 1998 that Egyptian mummies were on display in Hong Kong. The second hit museum showcase was a three-month exhibition on the history of the French Louvre Museum, held at the Heritage Museum until late July, and pulling in 355,888 visitors. Professor Ricardo Mak King-sang, a member of the Museum Advisory Committee under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, said: “Perhaps it proves that the label of a cultural desert for Hong Kong is fading. If there are good exhibitions, Hong Kong people will come to see them.” He urged the department to host more grand exhibitions to cultivate the general public’s passion for history and culture. Committee chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said the next step should be conducting research on visitor demographics and their preferences to map out future arts and cultural policy. “A boom in visitor numbers is a good start. But we need to know more about our visitors, like whether most of them are students, or how often they visit our museums,” Wong said. Hong Kong Heritage Museum features works from the Louvre to mark 20th anniversary of city’s return to Chinese rule He also said they were exploring how to develop an “expert market”. “Apart from the mass market, we also need to look after the expert market. For example, we can consider arranging special visits for scholars or researchers,” Wong said. To mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China, the government earmarked HK$640 million for hosting or sponsoring about 1,400 celebratory events locally and overseas. At the end of September, more than 900 local events had been held, according to the Home Affairs Bureau. Some 160 of about 200 events expected to be held in mainland China or overseas were already organised. The bureau estimated over 10 million people had taken part in all the events so far. The July 1 fireworks display was one of the most popular events, attracting more than 260,000 people to Victoria Harbour for the 23-minute show. Other highlights included a three-month exhibition on the ancient Liangzhu culture in neolithic China that drew 35,674 visitors to the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware. There was also a two-month exhibition on the architectural features of Parisian rooftops, which attracted 16,261 visitors.