The “contemporary appeal” of China in the 21st century is manifested in the intersection and integration of the "modernity construction" of the elite culture and the "post-modernity deconstruction" of the popular culture, which, embodied at the museum level, is the high attention paid by the government to the development of museums and the continuous warming of the “museum craze” in the whole society in recent years. Behind the nationwide craze, the construction of national identity, the influence of the “post-museum” concept and the pan-museum wave together constitute the main driving factors for the development of contemporary Chinese museums, among which Anhui Museum has been an active actor in response to this “contemporary appeal”.
Anhui Museum is in Hefei, the “City of Science and Innovation”. The old museum building, modelled after the Soviet-style building, located in the centre of the old urban area, is the PRC's first independently constructed provincial museum. The new museum building is located in the newly developed metropolitan area adjacent to the municipal government, featuring regional architectural characteristics, mainly displaying the history and culture of the Anhui province. In recent years, Anhui Museum has displayed a series of modern-themed exhibitions in the old museum to merge with the “slow culture” of the old urban area, while the new museum built an intelligent experience space targeting the youth group, and promoted close cooperation between the museum and social institutions through social education activities and development of cultural and creative products. At this point, Anhui Museum has participated in the dynamic generation process of contemporary culture as an active cultural producer.
Museum connecting history with the present
In a timely response to social hot spots and public sentiment, Anhui Museum has launched a series of exhibitions with significant events in modern and contemporary China, such as the “Reform and Opening up” and “Building a Well-off Society in an all-round Way”. It is expected to repair the internal differentiation of culture through “common memory” and widely converge social consensus with contemporary narratives.
The exhibition “My Yearning: Living in the Forty Years of Reform and Opening Up” was completed by four young curators who started from almost nothing- no exhibits, no historical experience. They were encouraged to view this ongoing history from a fresh perspective, reinterpret it with the young people’s keen sensitivity and accurately grasp the empathy of the visitors during the exhibition. “Call-up for ‘Old Objects’” was issued to the public, and the curatorial team visited the responders –citizens, companies, and other social institutions) at the door, had in-depth conversations with them, and collected exhibits and personal narratives and experiences of this period of history.
In the exhibition hall, nine scenes of life, such as peasants’ courtyards, supply and marketing cooperatives, and crowdfunding weddings, are restored. Old objects such as televisions, mobile phones, and account books were exhibited in groups. An old shoemaker was invited to tell the visitors about his past of making a fortune. Auxiliary means such as films, music, and comics were also incorporated into exhibition narratives, creating an immersive situation for visitors. These visually presented scenes of dramatic changes of the times reflect the innovative spirit of Anhui people who “dare to be the first” and enhance citizens' sense of closeness and pride, further generating a new cultural identity and constructing the contemporary “Anhui spirit”.
Museum Connecting Technology with the Future
To create a digital multimedia interactive exhibition hall of technology creativity, “Anbo Intelligent Space”, based on Jianghuai (Yangtze River and Huaihe River) Culture, was built in the new museum. Nine cute cartoon characters of “Little Mythical Creatures” were designed based on the prototype of bronze wares, and a story of “An Xiaobo’s Travels” is told through animation stories, interactive experiences, VR scenes, and other methods. Teenage visitors will find it interesting to be with An Xiaobo and his friends to play musical instruments, guess crosswords, navigate mazes, play puzzles, attend palace banquets, and finally return home. It is intended to create an immersive spatial experience for the public, especially teenagers, which integrates a sense of technology, knowledge and interest.
Museum connects itself with the External World
To closely connect with people’s daily lives, Anhui Museum has positively cooperated with social forces such as internet platforms (Tencent, Baidu, Tiktok etc.), local scientific and technological innovation enterprises, community comprehensive cultural stations, and commercial complexes to conduct extensive community activities both online and offline, hence cultivating new lifestyles of the city.
The immersive cultural theme show “Beauty of the Tang Dynasty” was planned as a significant cultural event of the year for the museum. On the one hand, relying on the Tang Dynasty theme exhibition currently on exhibit, Anhui Museum cooperated with a local cultural event planning company and a Hanfu ( traditional Chinese costume) club, with the participation of college students, and launched a cultural performance that integrated fashion show, sword dancing and tea art display, vividly restoring the scenes of Tang palace women’s banquets, The show was also accompanied by diverse activities such as special exhibition presentations, clothing and makeup fashion experience, traditional customs interactive games, bringing to the audience a fantastic “Night at the Museum”. On the other hand, Anhui Museum cooperated with Anhui Satellite TV and Anhui Economic TV to broadcast the whole event through multi-platform such as WeChat video, Tiktok, AAuto Quicker and Sino Microblog, connecting the wider online community.
In recent times, Anhui Museum has been planning to establish academic research institutions and develop a mature curator system to strengthen both research on cultural relics and exhibits of regional culture, based on which to curate a series of exhibitions themed on regional cultures and contemporary Anhui culture.To build an open museum, Anhui Museum actively uses digital technology and multimedia technology to attract more social forces to participate in museum activities, thereby becoming a crucial constructive force in contemporary Anhui culture.
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