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LCQ9: Support for efforts in community in relics conservation
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Pierre Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):
     The Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences (HKMMS) is a museum open to the public, operated independently on a self-financing basis. It has a collection of more than 2 000 relics relating to the development of medical and health sciences in Hong Kong. Recently, some experts in relics conservation have relayed that the majority of the relics in the collection of HKMMS are unfit for display and exhibition due to damages, but HKMMS lacks the funds needed for restoring such relics. Regarding the Government's support for efforts in the community in relics conservation, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will make reference to overseas practices and establish a heritage conservation subvention system to subsidise, by different means (including funding allocation, loans and revolving funds), private museums to carry out researches on relics, acquire facilities for preserving the relics in their collections, protect and restore such relics, and pay for the maintenance fees of the buildings in which the museums are located and the operating expenses of the museums; if so, of the specific arrangements; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it will consider providing financial incentives (e.g. tax concessions) to encourage organisations and members of the public to make donations to private museums;
(3) whether the Government will consider adopting other approaches, in addition to the support mentioned in (1) and (2), to render assistance to HKMMS in preserving a large number of precious medical relics;
(4) whether it will, by making reference to overseas practices, identify an appropriate approach in providing comprehensive support for efforts in the community in relics conservation; and
(5) whether it will conduct a comprehensive review on the existing efforts on public education and promotion, with a view to enhancing public understanding of and their interest in relics, historic monuments and museum collections, with a view to increasing (i) the attendances of museums and (ii) public support for efforts in the community in relics conservation?

     The Government is committed to promoting the development of arts and culture in Hong Kong. From the cultural policy perspective, museum is a platform for the community to gain access to and appreciate artefacts. At present, there are 14 public museums under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). At the same time, the Government welcomes the establishment of museums by organisations of different sectors in the community, which complement public museums and harness community efforts for maintaining a diverse museum presence in Hong Kong. More visitors will also be drawn to the museums to experience the rich history as well as arts and culture of Hong Kong. My reply to the various parts of the question raised by Dr Hon Pierre Chan is as follows:
(1) and (2) Artefact collection and collections management are the core functions of museums. Based on their positioning and direction, museums under different streams formulate their approach and strategies for the preservation, research and display of collections. While it is the government policy to respect the autonomy and independence of private museums which allow flexibility in their operation and management, the Government may consider rendering support and advice to different kinds of private museums, subject to the merits of individual cases.
     The Development Bureau (DEVB) set up the Built Heritage Conservation Fund (BHCF) in 2016 to provide subsidies for public education, community involvement and publicity activities as well as academic research. The funding scope of the BHCF also covers certain existing government measures and initiatives on built heritage conservation, including the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme and Financial Assistance for Maintenance Scheme (FAS). Under the newly established BHCF, the DEVB has enhanced the FAS since November 2016 by raising the grant ceiling from $1 million to $2 million for each works project and expanding the eligibility to cover not only privately-owned graded historic buildings but also government-owned declared monuments and graded historic buildings leased to non-profit-making organisations. Being located at the former Bacteriological Institute which is a government-owned declared monument, the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences is also eligible for the FAS.
     Regarding our support for community efforts in artefact conservation, application for grant can be made to the Lord Wilson Heritage Trust (the Trust) by members of the public or organisations for implementing heritage-related projects. Established in 1992, the Trust aims to preserve and conserve the human heritage of Hong Kong. Subsidised projects might include research, restoration and refurbishment of relics, antiquities and monuments. Besides providing funding support, the Trust also organises activities to enhance public awareness of and interest in heritage in Hong Kong.
     The Government also welcomes donations to museums from individuals, organisations and the business sector. However, initiatives to provide various financial incentives in this respect would require careful deliberation and extensive consultation.
(3) and (4) In order to enhance the quality of museum services, the Government has been supporting the museum professionals by building different networks and platforms to facilitate exchanges, communication and experience sharing in various fields, including collections management, artefact conservation and promotion of awareness in heritage conservation. For instance, the LCSD hosted the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Congress in 2014 to gather conservators and academics from home and abroad to share professional knowledge and latest findings on heritage conservation. To foster professional exchange and experience sharing among museum professionals, the LCSD will hold the Museum Summit in June 2017 and invite representatives from world-renowned museums, such as the Palace Museum, the Musée du Louvre and the British Museum, as well as the International Council of Museums to attend.
     On promoting awareness in heritage conservation in the community, the Conservation Office of the LCSD put up the Conservation Clinic at the Muse Fest HK held in the past two years. The Conservation Clinic provides members of the public with advice on the care of their treasured objects and the techniques on preservation and conservation. Thematic talks are also held on a regular basis to examine the characteristics of different types of artefacts and provide tips on their conservation. The LCSD also collaborates with various organisations or institutes to offer advice on heritage conservation from time to time.
(5) The LCSD has been promoting public awareness on heritage and collections through exhibitions and a wide range of education and extension activities including talks, seminars, workshops, etc. The attendance of the LCSD museums, for instance, reached 4.65 million in 2016. More than 21,000 sessions of education and extension activities were held and warmly received by over 880,000 participants. In addition, the LCSD has been eliciting community involvement in heritage conservation through the Conservation Volunteers Scheme for the past 15 years. In 2016, there were 175 volunteers who contributed about 13,000 hours in total to conservation programmes. Riding on the success of the Scheme, the LCSD will launch a new Museum Volunteers Scheme in 2017 to extend the scope of volunteer services and further promote public involvement in heritage conservation and other education and extension activities of museums.
Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:28
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