After the government’s plan to stimulate the economy met with criticism in early June, Wowprime chairman Steve Day (戴勝益) suggested that 20 museums funded by corporate donations be built to display the entire collection of the National Palace Museum. This would make it possible to exhibit 40 percent of the museum’s collections instead of the 1 percent that is currently on show at any given time, which could attract overseas tourists and help drive economic growth.
The suggestion was instantly shot down by the museum, saying it would be infeasible, and with that, the proposal was quickly forgotten.
A competent authority reacting with a knee-jerk response and rejecting a suggestion that has the potential to become an important driver of economic growth without first engaging in serious research or discussion is a pretty strange decisionmaking model.
Equally strange is that individuals claiming to be worried about the nation’s economic development ignore such a suggestion. It is clear that they subscribe to the cliche that officials always are right.
However, given the continued economic slump and the fact that tourism development is becoming integral to the nation’s economy, further discussion is necessary.
If Day says that 1 percent is too little and the government says that 40 percent is too much, is it possible that a solution in between these two points could be found that could bring alive the national treasures deep in the museum’s dusty cellars without putting the “fragile” — to use the museum’s phrase — treasures at risk?
As Day sees it, since the museum exhibits just 3,000 of its 700,000 artifacts, the rest could be used to attract large numbers of visitors from overseas.
He has even suggested that international corporations should be allowed to pledge the funding for 20 museums through an open bidding process and that these corporations should be allowed to create an environment meeting the humidity and storage demands that these artifacts require.
If another 1.5 million tourists could be attracted each year, Taiwan would become a big tourist destination 10 years from now and the travel agency, restaurant and souvenir industries would see rapid growth — without the government having to spend a single dollar.
National Palace Museum Director Fung Ming-chu (馮明珠) says that these national treasures are fragile non-commercial objects and that they therefore cannot be exhibited on a whim.
Lin Gu-fang (林谷芳), director of the Graduate Institute of Art Studies at Fo Guang University, says that the proportion of artifacts exhibited at other museums around the world is also quite low and that some objects are not suited for transport.
Lin has said that the National Palace Museum in Taipei has initiated its Grand National Palace Museum Project and that its southern branch is scheduled to open in late 2015, suggesting that these two projects could replace Day’s idea.
Although what Fung and Lin say makes sense, they do not succeed in fully refuting Day’s idea. After all, almost every object on display at the National Palace Museum has traveled long distances to get to Taiwan, so to say that they cannot be properly transported within Taiwan is counterfactual.
In addition, although some of the artifacts are not suitable for permanent display, that is not true of all of them.