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Voice: Earthquake Museum currently unacceptable
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By Wei Yingjie

The Sichuan Culture Heritage Bureau held a conference on June 2 to discuss the idea of building an earthquake commemoration museum. The focus was on first-phase preparation and the collection of cultural relics. Some experts attended the meeting and proposed the establishment of a foundation for world cultural heritage by building a major earthquake museum.

I cannot understand this, and I suspect victims will feel the same.

There are some rather more important questions to be dealt with than a museum right now. Most victims are still living in tents and many of the injured are waiting for proper treatment; "Quake Lake" has not been drained and disease prevention projects are still in progress. Moreover, the post-earthquake reconstruction program is not yet under way. Clearly, building a Museum is not a priority right now.

Victims have not yet recovered from the disaster, and people know that this powerful earthquake has brought a great deal of tragedy. As a historical testament, earthquake ruins are not an appropriate topic for the present.

The earthquake is still a principal topic of conversation, so for all of us the disaster is not yet part of the past. Even as simply a proposal, the mention of "earthquake sites" or "Museum" feels like interference in the grieving process. People who have just lost family and are still in the depths of mourning will find it hard to put a historical perspective on the tragedy for the time being.

A more important subject at present is to document the rescue and relief work that has been done, highlighting strengths and weaknesses as references for future incidents. An earthquake museum will serve as a memorial and a store of information – it should come after the task of summarizing the work that is being done.

Furthermore, other experts are not convinced that an immediate Museum project would do a good job of serving as a 'historical witness' or a repository. They are also afraid the museum would turn into more of a tourist attraction than a reference source – when Mianyang City held a meeting on May 21 to assemble plans to protect the site of Beichuan, the local travel agency was in attendance.

The principle of building an earthquake memorial museum is not itself in question. Premier Wen Jiabao himself has suggested that Beichuan county seat's old quarter could be retained as an earthquake ruin and there is nothing wrong with building a museum. But we need to ask ourselves if it is a good idea to put it on the agenda at present in the context of the feelings of the victims and the ongoing reconstruction works.

To show respect to victims, especially those who lost relatives, we should keep the lid on the earthquake memorial museum project until such times as people have had the opportunity to recover from the tragedy.

File of the author Wei Yingjie: He was born in the 1970s, and has several pseudonyms, including Gu Yun, Gu Jun and Lian Qin. He is a newspaper columnist in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province and focuses on culture, social comment, and book reviews.

(China.org.cn by Wu Huanshu, June 6, 2008)

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