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July 27, 2012

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Most museums don't attract lots of locals even when entry is free

TWO-THIRDS of local residents did not visit museums or art galleries last year even when they were able to go free of charge, a survey said.

Urbanites' lack of free time and the distant location of some museums are the main factors affecting locals' visits to them, according to the survey issued by the Shanghai Statistics Bureau yesterday.

Parks and public green areas are the most popular venues for locals to have fun, followed by cinemas and theaters.

Museums are the third most favorite recreation venue for locals, according to the survey, based on telephone interviews of 1,000 residents aged 16 to 70.

Shanghai has about 120 museums and memorial halls and nearly 60 percent of them are open to the public at no cost.

Some museums that previously charged for entry have changed their policies to allow entry without admission, while others opened for free during set periods of time.

But nearly half of those interviewed had no idea of the free-entry policy, the survey said.

"I only know the Shanghai Museum and Shanghai Art Museum are free to the public," said Gong Guifang, a local resident. "But I have no idea there are so many free museums now," she said.

In the survey, fewer than 30 percent people visited once or twice and 6 percent visited for three or four times.

The majority of people said they are interested in art, but they don't have time to visit museums, especially those in the city's outskirts.

Among the free museums, some are extremely popular, while some are seldom visited because of their remote location, unattractive content or lack of publicity.

The Shanghai Museum and Shanghai Art Museum in People's Square have had lots of people queuing outside since opening free to the public. Some children like to paint inside the museums and some residents come to enjoy the air conditioning in the scorching weather.

The organizers have to limit the number of visitors every day to protect the cultural relics.

By comparison, the Jinshan District Museum in the suburban area didn't have a great increase in the number of visitors after free entry began. Most of the visitors are nearby residents and students assigned by their school to go to the museum.

Location is not the only factor. The Shanghai Jiao Tong University History Museum, in downtown Xujiahui area, had few non-student visitors after the free entry as most people did not know of the university's free museums.

Some museum-goers complained that they visited less frequently after the museums opened for free.

Wang Xinyue, an undergraduate student, said, "I gave up visiting the museums a couple of times due to long time waiting in line."

Peng Jinglei, a local white-collar worker, is a big aficionado of the Shanghai Art Museum. She never cared about entry fees and often visited the museum with her friends.

"The increasing number of visitors after the free entry affects my mood and the visit," she complained.


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