In Ningbo museum, “public participation” has been regarded as our most important aim and duty, ever since opening in December 2008. Through innovative museum practice and the build-up of a museum public participation theory, Ningbo Museum became the youngest member among “National First-Level Museums” in China in 2012, and the laureate of the “Most Innovative Chinese Museums” in year 2014.
During the construction of Ningbo Museum, two terms have been brought up to promote public participation: “Grand Resource” and “Citizen’s Museum”. “Grand Resource” focused on the integration in the use of social resource on national and international scale; “Citizen’s Museum” focused on making Ningbo Museum into a service-oriented institute for citizens.In 2012, the new term “Common People’s Museum” replaced “Citizen’s Museum”, and in 2013, Ningbo Museum put forward “Museum: People’s life style” as our main idea of development. The interpretation of this idea lies in two aspects: Firstly, museum should serve not only a specific group of visitors, but all members in the society. Secondly, besides visit and/or museum activity participation, museum should become an indispensable element in the life style of the public.
Innovative Museum PracticeFollowing the transition of idea on museum public participation, innovative measures have been applied in all aspects in the museum operation.
I. ManagementNingbo Museum established a solid funding system. About 60% of the operational fund is provided by Ningbo municipal government, 20% comes from local district government, central government provides about 10%, and the rest is raised by Ningbo Museum itself from donations and fund raising campaigns for special projects.KPI (Key Performance Indicator) has been applied to evaluate staff performance. Every employee’s KPI grade is given by himself, his group, museum directors and other employees and the final result is associated with his income. Such museum KPI evaluation combines daily work duty with longer term working objectives, helps to motivate museum employees and enhance efficiency.
II. ExhibitionIn Ningbo Museum, we consider exhibitions as our most important service to the public, and we encourage public to decide our special exhibitions. Since year 2012, we began a regular survey named “Special Exhibition on your vote”, a questionnaire that studied audience’s interest and demand on special exhibitions. The survey greatly encourages public participation in actual museum operation. It’s been warmed received by our audience. Not only the demand of special exhibitions, but a great number of ideas and suggestions for museum practice are collected. Since then, every year, half of the special exhibitions in Ningbo Museums are decided according to the result of this survey. Thus, Ningbo Museum has successfully changed itself from a “supplying museum” to a “demand-driven museum”. Having answered the question of “what the public want to see” in the museum, Ningbo Museum then focuses on the problem of “how well the public receives an exhibition”. Museum exhibitions, especially cultural relics and art exhibitions, tend to hold a lofty profile, requiring adequate background knowledge in history and art to understand. They put an invisible pressure on the audience, and even keep the audience away sometimes. To solve this problem, Ningbo Museum makes sure to curate every exhibition in the eye of common visitor. We “transform” difficult terms and expert knowledge into easy and acceptable word and language. Images, videos and other supportive exhibition materials are widely used. Guided tours, lectures and educational activities are organized as well. Feedback of every special exhibition has been collected and analyzed to improve future exhibition projects.
III. Museum Service Museum is a prime culture service organization. The quality of museum service is an essential tie to relate museum with the public. In Ningbo Museum, we set up a service system in aim of becoming an indispensible element in people.Internally, we focus on the improvement of museum public service and the construction of a comfortable museum environment. Using the experience of other service-oriented organizations, like hotels and tourist sites, we established a new museum service code and applied a “star-rating” service system.
Ningbo museum is very easy to access. We’re free admission, and open all year-round. Besides exhibitions or activities, visitors are welcomed to come just to see our building, to have a cup of coffee, or just for a walk. There are various sitting areas in and around our museum, and free-wifi is provided in all public areas. The building itself is a great piece of art, and the surrounding area is garden-like. As a whole, Ningbo Museum has created a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in and around, inviting the public to interact with the museum. Externally, the build-up of volunteers’ team allows public to participate in museum service. Now in Ningbo Museum, there are 820 registered volunteers and 1380 student volunteers providing service in various sectors. Ningbo Museum also promotes museum volunteers on a large scale. In 2009, Ningbo Museum promoted the founding of the Volunteers’ Committee of Chinese Museums Association, and the Committee Secretariat has been settled in Ningbo Museum. In 2010, Ningbo Museum hosted the “International Museum Volunteers Forum” during the ICOM’s 22nd General Conference. In 2013, Ningbo Museum published the “Development Program of Chinese Museum Volunteers”, which becomes the guidance for other museums and institutions.
Ningbo Museum carries out social educational duty mainly by organizing various activities catering to participants of different ages. We design several categories of explorative or experiential activities for young audience. “Touch of Special Exhibitions” is a serial of activities that go with special exhibitions, inviting school students to interact with the exhibition for a better experience or understanding. For example, we organized a masquerade during the “Splendid Venice” exhibition. “Tradition of Chinese Holiday” is a serial that is held during traditional Chinese holidays for younger kids to practice typical customs of each traditional holiday, in order to revive old traditions and cultural memories. Like in the Dragon Boat festival, children learned to make “Zongzi”--a special rice-pudding for this holiday—by their own hands. “Experience of Intangible cultural heritage” is another serial that presents intangible culture heritage in the region to the youth by performances, lectures, or displays. Since Opening in 2008, Ningbo Museum has by now organized over 140 activities for the youth with a total of 15000+ participants. “Ningbo Museum in Mobile” is a program to send exhibitions to schools, residential communities, army garrisons, companies and far-away suburbs, in order to reach a wider range of people. There is a particular part of the “Ningbo Museum in Mobile” program called “Special love for you” that we sent exhibitions to schools for deaf mute, and mental-handicapped, helping children with special needs become part of our museum community. By March 2015, “Ningbo Museum in Mobile” has visited more than 230 schools, companies and residential communities, benefiting a total of 200,000+ people.
From “Grand Resource” and “Citizen’s Museum”, to “Common People’s Museum” and then to “Museum: People’s life style”, the transition of idea reflects Ningbo Museum’s continuously effort to encourage comprehensive public participation. With Innovations in inner management, service, exhibitions and activities, Ningbo Museum has now established a public participation system that helps us become an indispensible part of people’s life style, as well as an element of social harmony.
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