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'Too many visitors puts Palace Museum at risk'

(Xinhua)

15:35, February 15, 2012

BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The high number of visitors to China's Palace Museum, especially during public holidays, was more than the palace complex could safely handle, according to its newly-appointed curator.

Shan Jixiang, who took the post as the museum curator a month ago, said the museum receives as many as 130,000 tourists a day during peak seasons, a number that has far exceeded its capacity.

Visitors tend to follow the central axis from south to north, which has made the protection of certain parts of the museum more difficult, according to Shan.

In 1949, the number of tourists to the museum was 1 million. The number grew seven-fold in half a century to reach 7 million in 2002. And then just 10 years later the number doubled to 14 million in 2011, according to Shan.

Located at the heart of Beijing, the Palace Museum had been the throne of 24 ancient Chinese emperors and home to a vast collection of the imperial treasuries.

Given its status, the museum is a preferred choice for numerous exhibitions. However, the management of the Palace Museum has been under fire since May 2011 after several accidents.

In May 2011, exhibition pieces on loan from a Hong Kong-based museum were stolen in the palace complex. And on July 31, the museum reported that a researcher had accidently damaged a rare thousand-year porcelain dish.

Whistle-blowers also have accused the museum of running an exclusive club in one of its palaces and paying hush money to insiders who threaten to expose ticket scandals.

The safety of visitors as well as the cultural relics is the most challenging task for the management of the Palace Museum, Shan said.

World-class security systems will be used to replace what's being used, most of which were constructed in the last three decades of the 20th century and were outdated, he said.

Museum authorities will strive to ward off security risks, increase the transparency of their work, and invite the public to submit suggestions regarding museum management, he said.

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