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Curators plead for more money after free admission causes crisis in museums
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The Chinese government's move to make entry to many museums free of charge has led to curators asking for more money to cope with the huge increase in visitor numbers.

Curators from more than 20 provincial museums on Friday called for more financial support.

At a meeting in the capital of southeast Fujian Province, museum officials talked of their problems with increasing security pressure after the country allowed visitors to enter museums for free.

"After the free admission policy took effective in January, visitor numbers soared from several hundred a day to more than 10,000 at peak time." said Lin Dan, spokeswoman of Fujian Provincial Museum.

"The museum had to control visitor numbers by issuing just 3,000 tickets a day. There were not enough tickets but that's the way forward," she added.

In January this year China ordered all museums, memorial halls and national patriotism education bases to offer free admission by 2009. Only a few cultural relics and historical sites were excluded.

The number of visitors has soared in the past nine months following the policy, with farmers, who used to stay away from the attraction because of the entry ticket price, benefiting from the policy when touring around cities, the meeting heard.

To impose an upper limit on visitor numbers, museums also used other methods including reservations online or by phone and regular exhibits sharing and exchanging, according to the meeting.

No official figure on the increased visitors was released, but curators said the visitor numbers needed to be "controlled".

The influx of more visitors exerted more pressure on the management as protection was needed for museum exhibits. The authorities had complained of having a difficult time to ensure proper management because of lack of funds.

According to the government's plan, the number of free entry museums across the country has exceeded 600 this year. They will be joined by a further 800 museums next year.

Government statistics show that China has more than 2,300 museums, which received 150 million visitors last year.

(Xinhua News Agency November 2, 2008)

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