I really like museums. You don’t just get to admire famous paintings and sculptures, you get to learn about history in a much more interesting and fun way than in class.
However, I think that building a HK$3.5 billion replica of Beijing’s Palace Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District is a bad thing.
In most museums, there are notable exhibits that are worth looking out for, like the Easter Island Hoa Hananai’a statue in the British Museum or the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci in the Louvre. The Palace Museum replica in Hong Kong will be a completely different story.
During the Chinese Civil War, the Chinese Nationalist Party moved many artefacts to the National Palace Museum in Taipei, leaving the less valuable ones behind. The artefacts that are now displayed in the old Forbidden Palace in Beijing have been cherry-picked from the leftovers.
Despite the lack of valuable exhibits, the Beijing Palace Museum still attracts visitors from all over the world because it’s in the Forbidden City, and people can see where the emperors and royal families of three ancient dynasties lived.
Hong Kong’s Palace Museum won’t be offering anything that the Beijing or Taipei museums don’t already. Unlike in Beijing, there are no structures in Hong Kong that were used by the royal families. And since the exhibits will be made up of a small fraction of the artefacts that the Nationalists left behind, it won’t amount to anything as grand as what you can see in Taipei, or even Beijing.
The project was also approved with almost no public consultation. Less than a year after the project was initially proposed, it was given the nod of approval, with money coming from the Jockey Club.
Here’s the conclusion then: the museum probably won’t be a success. We don’t know why the new museum will need HK$3.5 billion to build it because there wasn’t a public consultation or approval from the Legislative Council, and we don’t know who will pay for the overhead if it exceeds that amount. Will locals even want or accept a Hong Kong-based version of the Palace Museum? We don’t know, seeing as we weren’t consulted.
The museum could be a massive commercial failure – we should abandon this project right away. If we do build a museum, it should have something to do with our local culture – like making it about Bruce Lee, or Cantonese movies or Canto-pop. That would be more appealing to locals and encourage overseas visitors to Hong Kong.