Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Criteria for evaluating museums are needed

By Lu Ching-fu 呂清夫

Recent reports show that about 20 national museums and cultural centers under the Ministry of Education were demoted and lost their title as "national" institutions. This has caused alarm among personnel at these organizations as the demotion meant the loss of independence and the right to appoint staff.

While some may think these institutions were demoted because of serious wrongdoing, the reality is that it was all done in the name of "reorganization."

Ten of the demoted institutions have been transferred to the Council for Cultural Affairs for governance. Strangely enough, the council plans to double its size -- from three departments to six -- presumably to handle the new institutions under its care.

This change brings to mind the way the ministry carries out annual evaluations of junior colleges and vocational high schools. Based on these, it decides which schools can expand their classes, which must accept less students and which must close. Accepting less students means a demotion, while expanding classes is a promotion. Why can't this same approach be applied to the streamlining of museums and cultural centers?

The National Central Library and the National Science and Technology Museum managed to keep their status as "national" institutions. But what mechanism was used to decide which institutions should be promoted or demoted?

Some reports have said that an institution with more than 300 employees qualifies. But having a large number of staff hardly counts as a valid criterion.

Having a clear mechanism for evaluating a museum or cultural center's status can also be useful in other ways. For example, the National Museum of History has arranged for an exhibition of rare treasures from abroad. The foreign party only agreed to lend its treasures after ascertaining that the museum really was a national institution.

And if one were to judge a museum's status by its achievements, a look at some recent exhibitions would reveal some disappointments. Take, for example, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. One of its recent exhibitions, "Dirty Yoga," was deemed a success by the Taipei City Government and described in a local magazine as one of the best exhibitions last year.

However, an inquiry by National Taiwan Normal University revealed that the exhibition cost NT$22 million and attracted 133,766 visitors, placing the average cost per visitor at NT$164. With the entrance fee costing only NT$30, the city government had to pay a subsidy of NT$134 per visitor.

What is clearly needed is a fair mechanism to make official evaluations. Unfortunately, as one newspaper report said: "This kind of annual review in the art world should be done by the Council for Cultural Affairs." It's a pity it isn't.

So, before reducing the tasks of the education ministry and expanding the council's, it would be prudent, a priori, to determine what the public wants.

Public impression of the council is limited to the belief that it is an institution that has produced many museum directors and published a lot of books.

However, even this latter function has been criticized on the YLib Web site, which said the council's publications value quantity over quality and that all of them were outsourced.

We are still awaiting an investigation by the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission on this issue. Only then can a decision be made on what institutions should be reduced or expanded.

This story has been viewed 3163 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top