PLANNING a night on the town? How about stopping in at the museum?
It may not be the most popular destination for many people, but the National Heritage Board (NHB) hopes to change that as it pushes to double museum visits to 4.2 million - the size of the population - in five years' time.
A blog, an advertising blitz and museum-hopping bus rides are among NHB's plans, over the next three years, to make Singaporeans love their cultural centres the way they adore cinemas, which sold 16 million tickets last year.
NHB hopes to increase visitorship to its six museums as well as 24 other public and private museums grouped under the Museum Roundtable it chairs. Together, they now draw 2.1 million visits a year.
NHB's main target is the under-35s - the group that tends to shun museums worldwide. Most of the approximately 900,000 people who visit NHB's six museums every year are 35 or over.
'Young people are not willing to spend one or two hours to go to a museum,' said under- graduate Cheong Vee San, 19. 'We are young, we want to do a lot of things, we want to experience life. Museums are not fun. Sometimes, they are pretty serious stuff.'
Some pizazz might help, NHB hopes. It is taking the lead and is wooing trendy restaurants and stores to set up outlets in some of its museums.
To entice the working crowd to make a round of the galleries a pre-dinner ritual, some museums may extend their opening hours from 7pm to 11pm next year.
NHB chief executive, Mrs Lim Siok Peng, told The Straits Times that, now it has almost reached the one-million visitor goal for its museums two years ahead of schedule, it wants to give its smaller cousins a lift.
'We want to do even more for Singapore as a whole, to create that museum-going culture,' she said.
Starting next year, NHB will offer workshops covering topics such as conservation techniques, service quality and fund raising. It will also promote its National Heritage Fund - Central Fund, which assists non-profit organisations that support Singapore's heritage, culture and arts.
The board has less than $1 million a year to carry out its plan, and hopes companies will step forward with funds. 'They shouldn't look at it as mere corporate social responsibility. It goes beyond that, it shows they have a soul,' said Mrs Lim.
NHB operates the Singapore History Museum, two branches of the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Singapore Art Museum, Reflections at Bukit Chandu and the Singapore Philatelic Museum.
The smaller establishments range from the Buddhist art museum Nei Xue Tang and Chinatown Heritage Centre to The Battle Box and Civil Defence Heritage Gallery.
The Malay Heritage Centre admits that in order to succeed, museums will have to give up old habits, such as loading school groups with worksheets. Spokesman Aminah Omar said: 'All of us, the smaller museums, will be hard-pressed to increase visitorship on our own. But as part of a larger campaign, it will be wonderful.'
To add visitors and raise awareness:
- The National Heritage Board (NHB) will step up publicity and advertising for museum open-house days and special events.
- Museums And Young People, a special day targeting youth, will be held next May.
- There will be museum-hopping bus rides, night museum tours and youth events.
- NHB will launch its blog and Web portal by January.
- There will be joint brochures and sale of tour packages that include stops at a few museums.
To raise professionalism in the industry:
- NHB will organise workshops covering topics such as conservation techniques, archival methodologies, market research, service quality and fund raising.
- There will be overseas study trips and cultural exchange missions with foreign museums and institutions.
To improve access to funds:
- More aggressive promotion of the National Heritage Fund - Central Fund to raise money and awareness of an NHB scheme, launched in March, which supports non-profit organisations that promote Singapore's heritage, culture and arts.
Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.