Beyond relics: Chinese museums seek more visitors

By Wang Kaihao ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-12-02 07:13:58

Beyond relics: Chinese museums seek more visitors

[Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

"When a museum designs its cultural products, it should extract the symbols of their collections rather than simply making copies, no matter how delicate the originals are," says Mo Ni, the design director for Red Dragonfly Artworks, a Guangzhou-based company that makes products for museums.

"As more Chinese travel overseas, and museum souvenirs are seen as one of the best gifts for their foreign friends, our designs need to combine traditional culture and pop culture," he says.

Mo adds that the industry has just taken off in China, so some ideas aren't mature enough. He cites the example of printing Peking Opera masks on erasers.

"Erasers are mostly used by children, but the masks may scare them," Mo says of the heavy makeup that Peking Opera artists wear during performances.

Cultural innovation isn't simply putting things together. While extracting cultural symbols, museums still need to find ways to make them travel, he adds.

A national committee for cultural innovation products, involving 31 museums nationwide, was established in 2013. Zhang Peng, the chief of cultural innovation office in Beijing's Capital Museum, says the panel's work is tough at its early stage.

"A major problem is many Chinese museums are public institutions fully supported by fiscal expenditure. It is still unclear whether they should be allowed to make a profit," Zhang says. "If they have no rights to freely dispose of the income they earn from selling the products, there may be an obstacle to nurture more creativity in the industry."

Besides, the development of such products needs specialist knowledge in archaeology, art design and marketing, expertise that the committee still needs, he adds.

Zhang says the committee also plans to have a shopping website, where members will be able to see souvenirs for the purpose of better marketing.

"We will protect the intellectual property of each museum's collection. However, we currently don't concern ourselves much with the question of whether our designs are copied by others," he adds.

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