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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Shanghai's private museums, thriving before, shutting doors

(Shanghai Daily)

16:20, December 13, 2011

Amid soaring rents and labor costs, private museums are facing tremendous hardships and many have closed under the pressure.

Shanghai has set up a special fund to aid private museums, especially those open to the public for free.

The fund will provide 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) annually to subsidize private museums' daily operation, exhibition and research work. But collection experts said the fund is inadequate and called on enterprises to join in by setting up industry museums for the public.

Private museums emerged in the city in the mid-1980s and thrived in the 1990s. More than 200 family-run museums have appeared in the city. But they have met harder times since 2000 and half have died out, said the Shanghai Collection Association.

The historic Duolun Road, which offers cheap rents to collectors, once attracted more than 10 museums or exhibition rooms but most of them have closed.

"Tight budgets, lack of successors and relocation to rural areas in the urban construction campaign caused the closure of private museums, including the abacus museum and postcard museum," said Wu Shaohua, director of the association.

"Many family-owned museums have few visitors after the family move to the suburbs from the downtown area," he said.

Wu had convinced a lottery collector, Cai Bochang, to launch a museum free to the public in 2006. The museum featuring 1,000 copies of lotteries dating back to the Qing Dynasty(1644-1911) received nearly 10,000 visitors monthly. But it closed about two years ago as the building in Pudong's Zhangjiang area was pulled down in a city reconstruction project.

The Zhangjiang Town government has arranged a similar place for Cai to reopen his museum next year and promised to pay the rent for him in the first three years. But Cai worries about the decoration fees, expected to reach 1 million yuan to meet the safety and display criteria of a museum.

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