Universities should build museums, minister says

ART VALUE::Ministers at an event yesterday said university museums have not been pushed enough in Taiwan, to the detriment of the quality of education

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Nov 21, 2012 - Page 4

Universities should step up efforts to build museums on campuses to enhance students’ learning experience, a Cabinet official said yesterday.

The function of a university museum is not only to teach, but also to provide opportunities for students to experiment in certain areas, Minister Without Portfolio Huang Kuang-nan (黃光男) said at an international symposium on global collaboration among university museums.

In his speech, Huang highlighted the importance of university museums. Open to the public, a university museum has the same function as a typical museum, but also serves the same role as a higher education institution, he said.

Organized by the Taichung-based Asia University, the one-day event was attended by speakers from Taiwan, the US, the UK and Japan. Asia University is set to open an art museum on its campus next year.

Vice Minister of Education Chen Der-hwa (陳德華), who also attended the event, expressed hope that the symposium would help local universities learn more about their foreign counterparts in the museum field.

“The concept of a university museum has not received much attention in this country,” Chen added.

According to Huang, there are more than 20 museums on university and college campuses in Taiwan.

However, these institutions face a number of challenges.

The biggest challenge is their inability to illustrate their corresponding universities’ research achievements as effectively as those on US campuses. This is due in large part to the limited number of visitors to such museums in Taiwan, Huang said.

Huang, who was president of the National Taiwan University of Arts from 2004 until last year, also suggested that the establishment and management of university museums be listed as a criteria in university evaluations.

Meanwhile, Paul Smith, director of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in England, said at a news conference on the sidelines of the symposium that the key role of a university museum is to improve the quality of the students’ experience.

Campus museums provide a more rounded intellectual and cultural education, said Smith, who represents one of the oldest university museums in the world.

“That’s a difference between a university that has a good museum and no museum,” Smith added.