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2018 China-Japan-ROK International Conference on Museums

A country's capital usually serves as its symbol and central point of focus and plays an important role in communicating with the international community. -- BAI Jie, President of Capital Museum, China
Date:August 14, 2018 - August 15, 2018

Civilizations of Capital Cities and Cultural Exchanges

—Prospect and Outlook of Cooperation on “Capital Studies” 

that Transcends Dimensions of Time and Space



BAI Jie, President of Capital Museum, China


(August 15, 2018)


A country's capital usually serves as its symbol and central point of focus and plays an important role in communicating with the international community. Museums in capital cities serve as a collector and protector of the history of the city, and work to record and promote the country's spirit of humanity. Capital studies is an important academic discipline that helps facilitate the development of museums in capital cities. Previously, "Seoul studies" and "Beijing studies" have explored capital studies. Now, the involvement of museums in capitals not only accelerates the development of local studies and the establishment of an international discipline system, but also gives impetus to the development of international museums in the new era. Through further academic research on this subject, museums in capital cities can better assist the development of museums throughout the country.


Chinese President Xi Jinping advocates for people all around the world to jointly build a community of shared future for mankind. China and all countries in the world are members of the global community, and museums are an important part of that. The "hyperconnections" of museums can be used to carry forward the spirit of equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning and win-win cooperation, increase exchanges between world civilizations and concertedly build a brighter future for mankind.


I.Review of China-Japan-ROK Museum Cooperation


The cooperation and exchange among the museums of China, Japan and Republic of Korea has been carried out for over 16 years. In 2002, the Capital Museum, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and the Seoul Museum of History jointly initiated a museum exchange mechanism in the capital cities of China, Japan and ROK. Through the annual international conference on museum studies, the three museums exchange ideas, intensify communication and open channels of cooperation. In 2007, the Shenyang Palace Museum joined in the partnership to form the current interactive exchange model among the four sister museums. Over the past 17 years, under the framework of the China-Japan-ROK International Conference on Museum Studies, personnel of the four museums have grown close and have developed in-depth cooperation concerning mutual learning of academic ideas, experience in museum management, joint curation and so on. The past few years of development have led to a profound friendship among museum personnel of the three countries.


In 2013, on the 20th anniversary of the establishment of sister cities between Beijing and Seoul, the Capital Museum and the Seoul Museum of History held a peer-exchange exhibition. The "3000 years of Beijing: a Journey of Acceptance and Tolerance" - an exhibition of Beijing's urban history organized by the Capital Museum, was staged in the Seoul Museum of History. While "Seoul, A City of Streams: The Changing Fortunes of Cheonggyecheon," an exhibition with the theme of shifting river channels of Cheonggyecheon arranged by the Seoul Museum of History, was displayed in the Capital Museum in December, 2015.


Later on, the Capital Museum and the Edo-Tokyo Museum collectively held an exhibition representing urban life in Tokyo and Beijing. Through the delicate cultural relics collected by the two museums, the exhibition showed Edo in the Shogun era and Beijing in the era of the emperors Kangxi and Qianlong in different aspects, from city building to urban life. The exhibition was held in the Edo-Tokyo Museum in 2017 and officially opened at the Capital Museum yesterday. Through their joint curation partnership, both museums have deepened their cooperation mechanism. The Capital Museum opened its storages to its counterparts in Tokyo and assigned personnel to conduct academic exchanges in a bid to complete the planning work of the exhibition together.


The annual China-Japan-ROK international conference has yielded great fruits, which can be seen in the gradually deepening subjects, the increasingly close relationship among personnel and more and more diverse cooperation patterns. The theme of the 14th conference in Tokyo in 2015 was "Urban Museums as Cultural Disseminators"; the theme of the 15th conference in Shenyang in 2015 was "The Effect of Culture Creativity and its Derivatives in the Development of Museums”; the theme of the 16th conference in Seoul in 2017 was "City History Museum and City Memory", with the Institute of Seoul Studies of the University of Seoul and the Institute of Beijing Studies of Beijing Union University participated in the conference as well. Through this, our academic discussions were enriched. This year, we chose "'Hyperconnections' of Museum under the Context of Capital Studies" as the theme, in response to the theme of the 2018 International Museum Day as well as to adapt to the trend of the times featuring platform establishment, resource integration, and sharing. In the context of "capital studies," we invited the Bangkok National Museum of Thailand to participate in the forum. Although they did not attend the event in Beijing, their involvement has expanded the international conference on museum studies in Asia that we have been working on for 17 years. Together, we carry forward the cooperation and communication among museums in capitals in the academic context of "capital studies." Besides, their involvement also has increased the scope and depth of our cooperation. Such achievements result from our shared social function orientation, social value pursuit, development request, and mission. In the future, we hope to continuously see more involvement of other capital museums and learn from each other and to keep strengthening and deepening communication and cooperation in various aspects.


II. “Capital” Function of Carrying Civilization and Progress


Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Shenyang are all time-honored ancient capitals and renowned cities with profound cultural accumulation; for Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, these kinds of historical and cultural functions are increasingly integrated with their current functions as capitals in the process of development. Throughout history, capitals and cities have emerged and grown with each other in harmonious ways.


Museums in capital cities serve as the windows for displaying and providing capital functions - a kind of urban cultural disseminator that collects, displays, disseminates, and studies urban development and national progress. Through these functions, an important mission for urban museums is to understand and diffuse the historical culture of the cities where the museums are located. The Capital Museum has always been committed to serving the society, appreciating "Beijing Wisdom", exploring the brilliant Chinese culture and promoting exchanges of world civilizations together with the public. On February 25th, 2014, when Chinese President Xi Jinping paid an inspection visit to the Capital Museum, he emphasized that the reason why museums "hold historical exhibitions is to memorize and draw from the history, and enlighten future generations." Besides, he hoped that museum workers would "inform the public of historical wisdom.” Urban civilizations carry a wealth of ancient wisdom, and the progress of capital cities represents the progress of the whole country. Consequently, we museum workers should develop in-depth cooperation with those who adhere to the civilization studies of capital cities, and jointly propose and promote the construction of an academic system driven by international cooperation to assist our research and enrich our minds. By doing this, we can diffuse and share the urban spirit and ancient wisdom on a more realistic and extensive level.


The "Reading City" series of exhibitions designed and staged by the Capital Museum in recent years have allowed the museum to deeply explore and diffuse Beijing's urban culture. The series of exhibitions, focusing on the concept of social education in museums, is becoming a brand for the Capital Museum. So far, the series of exhibitions, including the first one "Seeking for the Historical Beijing City" and the second "Discovering the Charm of Beijing Quadrangles" have been staged as itinerant exhibitions in China. Through the series of exhibitions, the public can feel more connected to museums and Beijing, an ancient and modern city and people who live in Beijing can feel a sense of belonging, so that they can reflect on the present and the plans for the future. While diffusing the historical culture of Beijing, the exhibitions also dig into the historical culture of the cities where the exhibitions are held, so that the local audience can understand the civilization progress of different cities in China. During the Chinese Spring Festival this year, we also incorporated an interactive activity with the theme "Transnational Urban Culture" with the National Museum in Wrocław of Poland. Families of the two cities told stories of their cities at both museums, and the audience could watch the museum of the other side through the museum network platform. This project allowed the public of the two cities to gain better intercommunication and knowledge of one another.


III.Exploration of Cooperation Model of Hyperconnected Museums under the Context of “Capital Studies”


The theme of the 2018 International Museum Day was identified as "Hyperconnected Museums: New Approaches, New Publics.” The global network is increasingly complicated and diverse. In this hyperconnected world, there is a trend to realize win-win outcomes by using cross-border cooperation and resource sharing via information network technology as the driving force. "Capital studies," in such a background, is a discipline of urban studies with the research object of capitals. Museums in capital cities are the preserver and recorder of the history of capital cities, as well as the witness and participant of the current development of capital cities. Moreover, museums in capital cities are also an important support for "capital studies" and the places of origin for academic research in relevant fields. Capital studies is a valued subject in many overseas countries such as the United Kingdom, France, the United States, South Korea and Japan. Studies of capitals such as London, Paris, Washington D.C., Seoul and Tokyo have been constantly deepened. The Capital Museum attaches great importance to the academic development of "capital studies" and "Beijing studies" and their supportive function. Therefore, the museum has established long-term strategic partnerships with the Institute of Beijing Studies and the Beijing Union University. We hope to deepen urban museum workers' understanding of local urban studies, and meanwhile, we hope to promote the construction of larger platforms for academic cooperation and historical wisdom dissemination and collectively enrich and develop the construction of an academic system and the development of academic cooperation for international capital studies based on museums.


Shortly before, the Capital Museum signed memorandums of friendly cooperation with the APSARA National Authority of Cambodia and the Bangkok National Museum of Thailand to transfer the international exchange mechanism for museums of Northeast Asia to Southeast Asia. The important achievement of the conference this year is our joint initiative to treasure friendship, deepen exchanges and carry forward our cooperation mechanism. As we strengthen our academic cooperation, in the next three years, the four museums based in East Asia, following the policy of building friendship and partnership with neighboring countries, will remain committed to encouraging liaison and communication between the capital cities and the museums in the historical capital cities, and will extend our existing cooperation mechanism and build cooperation platforms for the development of human culture.


At present, we should actively advocate museum researchers to cooperate with us in diffusing museum knowledge, planning and offering themed exhibitions to meet the needs of our citizens, and facilitate mutual learning based on resource collection and research results of the museums they serve. What we are pursuing is a comprehensive linkage pattern of museums, which, as we believe, will yield more fruits to serve the international community and expedite the development of museum undertakings.


The "Internet Plus" era is full of opportunities and challenges. In such an era, museums should undertake more missions than before, and museums in capital cities and ancient capital cities should take the lead in discovering a "hyperconnected" approach of cooperation and development. We boast 16 years of experience, unswerving professional ethics, and value pursuit. Nevertheless, the most important thing that we have is our unremitting efforts. Let us continue to move forward one step after another and work together for a brighter future!


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