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Palace opens more doors to present new face

By Zhang Zixuan (China Daily)

08:41, February 15, 2012

BEIJING - The Palace Museum, also well known as the Forbidden City, is taking major steps to repair its image after a series of scandals last year, said its new curator.

One move will be to increase the amount of space open to the public from 46 percent to 76 percent, said Shan Jixiang at a news conference on Tuesday.

"The Palace Museum is like an encyclopedia," said Shan, who was the former director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage prior to taking up his appointment as curator a month ago. "Managing it is a new challenge for my skills."

Led by the former curator Zheng Xinmiao, the museum has made significant progress in many ways, such as architectural repairs and scientific research, Shan said.

In the past seven years, a census of museum-owned relics and artifacts has been completed, of which up to 1.8 million items can now be cross-referenced with detailed documentation.

In 2011, more than 14.2 million visited the museum, setting a world record. This was twice the amount of visitors in 2002 and is estimated to increase by 10 percent this year.

"Catering to the demands of so many visitors is quite a challenge for the Palace Museum, especially when the visitation patterns vary so much in respect to time and place," Shan said.

The daily number of visitors during the May Day holiday, National Day holiday and summer vacation period usually rises to 80,000 on average, twice the amount of other days. And most visitors tend to congregate around the central axis of the palace, putting pressure on this area.

To improve the situation, more areas will be opened up to the public as repairs are completed. The distribution of exhibits and viewing access for streams of visitors will also be rearranged.

Meanwhile, commercial stands and temporary exhibitions at the Duanmen Gate area have been removed and up to 28 ticket boxes will be set up to prevent crowded queues. Facilities for wheelchairs and baby carriages will also be introduced.

Commenting on last year's scandals, Shan confirmed that the Jianfu Palace garden will not become a private club, but will be used for small-scale exhibitions, seminars and news conferences.

The 13 research institutions that are based in the museum will also be relocated off site before 2016, he added.

Places such as the Yuhua Pavilions and Juanqin House, which are in too fragile a state to be opened, are to feature photographic and technical presentations online.

Shan stressed that safety and security are the most important matters requiring attention.

"Safety will always be the absolute priority," said the 58-year-old new curator.

"The public has the right to know, to participate and to benefit, so we welcome criticism and supervision from the public," Shan said.

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