Is it "harmful" or "helpful" to show the museum for free like this?
- By Dashmaa D -
- Mar 10,2023
A 90-year-old grandmother who was watching TV, heard the information about the open days of the museum and said, “If these people see a museum in a bunch like this, can they see the quality content? That old woman criticized the policy and management of the Ministry of Culture with such a single sentence. I don’t want to make it a priority to scan and criticize. However, the “Museum Open Days” campaign is considered to be an exaggeration, no different from other PR measures of the state and government authorities.
What happened in the capital’s state-owned museums on March 1 to 5? For example, more than 4,000 adults and 1,500 children visited the Natural History Museum. Especially, in the last two days of this campaign, it was very difficult for the museum staff to carry out their work. Kindergartens and schools brought their children and students by bus. In this regard, the museum employee said, “What was the need for kindergartens and schools to transport children in an organized manner these days? After all, according to the law, children aged 0 to 16 should watch it for free. So, after noticing the incident, I thought that kindergarten and school teachers wanted to watch it for free. No other explanation was found. Even the organizations that used to serve by reservation came again. An adult can visit the Natural History Museum for 9,000 MNT. There are 10,000 MNT family packages regardless of viewing. Students enter for 2000 MNT. So, the teachers tried to save 9000 MNT in the name of organizing their children. Most of the visitors on any given day were a mess. People came holding their two or three-month-old babies. And babies cry. There were too many visitors to display with a description. In fact, on normal days, the interpreter works. We were fighting to protect and preserve our exhibits.”
28,596 people visited the National History Museum within the framework of “Museum Open Days”. It is five to six times busier than normal days. The museum has nine halls, and this time the visitors were very focused on the “Decoration” and “Costume decoration” halls. When many people gathered at once, they waited for five to 10 minutes. Parents with young children were forming a long queue. The boys did not damage the exhibit, but they said that it was contaminated by touching the glass shelter. It has a coffee corner on the first floor, so people with babies and two to three-year-old children stayed there and waited for each other. The public relations officer of the museum was asked about the positive and negative aspects of the visitors coming together during the campaign. She said, “I understand that the information about this campaign announced by the Ministry of Culture is well known. Among the people who came with their families, many people said, ‘Oh, I did not know that children should watch it for free’. So, I can conclude that the general public does not know that the Law on Museums, which has been in force for two years, states that children aged zero to 16 can visit state-owned museums for free. Our museum can be visited for 20,000 MNT for adults, 10,000 MNT for students, and 15,000 MNT for families. The family package is discounted up to 7,500 MNT. People don’t know about it. We regularly provide information on our corporate website. However, it does not seem to reach many people. At the same time, Mongolia, it has been noticed that the culture of visiting museums, especially spending weekends in museums, is not popular or regularized.
I asked how the situation was at the Mongolian Military Museum. A total of 7,038 adults and children visited them in five days as part of the “Museum Open Days”. The organization, which has 20 to 30 visitors on a normal day, was nervous to cope with the overload. The Military Museum is rich in archaeological finds, and historical and cultural artifacts. Workers of that museum said that some of the cloth exhibits were torn due to the impact of the crowd. The handle of a motorcycle that was a witness to a historical event in the department of exhibits related to military weapons and equipment was dislodged. The door was broken and the toilet was clogged. The public relations officer of the museum said, “People came to the museum to show their children strange and interesting things. Almost everyone didn’t know that children aged zero to 16 visit the museum for free. When explaining this, ‘Oh, is that so? Then it can be shown at any time.’ At the same time, it seems that there is a prevailing mentality among the people who have a ‘love for free stuff’ attitude towards free things. Our rates are cheap. It costs 5,000 MNT for adults and 2,000 MNT for students. It seems that couples with two or more children brought all their children to save money because people didn’t know that children were free. But thank them for coming. The purpose of our museum is to introduce the public to the history of the military and the army of Mongolia and to help children and youth grow and develop with patriotic maturity. So, when they arrive, they get to see sights that they had not imagined before, get information, and if they get interested in even one of them, it is a success for both us and those people.”
The Chinggis Khaan Museum was reported earlier. As part of the “Museum Open Days”, on the first day, elderly people, disabled people, and children aged 17 and 18 were served free of charge. Others watched it for 30,000 MNT as usual. Of course, this procedure does not apply to children aged zero to 16. But the next day, when everyone started serving free of charge, there was a long queue outside the museum. As other museums were overcrowded, the queues for this one were long.
The five-day “Museum Open Days” organized by the Ministry of Culture had such pictures. The ministry wrote on its official page that 174,512 visitors across the country participated in the program in 35 state and local museums. The number is high. But what about the quality? Has anyone who has visited a museum been able to get information thoroughly? Did they increase their knowledge of history and culture through the exhibits?
Minister of Culture Ch.Nomin said, “Museum Open Days aimed at strengthening unified national values and spreading the heritage of the country were held throughout Mongolia. A total of 174,512 citizens visited museums and participated in exhibitions, events, and educational programs on national history, culture, heritage, traditions, and customs. I would like to thank all museum owners for spreading the culture of visiting museums and passing on the heritage of culture.”
A person who read what the minister wrote said, “It was a good campaign. The ministry has worked well.” But in reality, museums were overburdened and the staff was struggling to keep the exhibits intact.
The Minister of Culture supports the policy of popularizing the culture of visiting museums. However, at least within the framework of the law, it has been several years since they failed to inform the public that children aged zero to 16 can visit any state-owned museum for free. If this information had reached the people properly, they would not have struggled to make it in five days. The culture of visiting a museum is not the name of free entry and exit, it is not a struggle for it, and it is not even anarchy.
In the name of transitioning to a market-oriented society, the “love for free stuff” mentality, which was created during the years of almost starving, is revealed through "Museum Open Days". Is there a loss of income behind this PR campaign, which is calculated to attract the audience in such a flock? For example, 20 to 30 people visit the Mongolian Military Museum every day. Will the number of visitors to the museum decrease significantly if those who plan to visit the museum someday visit it for free during this campaign? There are questions like this. The Ministry of Culture organizes the “Museum Open Days” campaign, which is “good” for museums and visitors, or "harmful".
The culture and maturity of visiting a museum is a platform for the education and development of individuals and families. If the citizens are interested, if they think it is necessary, they will see it without pressure. At that time, it is the responsibility of the government and the ministry to maintain museums and exhibits. Apart from that, the government should not “press the museum” and lower its price. Only the ministry and each museum need to provide information about the exhibits and displays in their collections to the audience in a rational, interesting way and with a certain frequency. So people will continue to go to the museum after calculating the time and money.