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Mayhem reigns at free-for-all museums
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A decision to offer free entry to city museums has caused authorities new headaches due to poor behavior from the large crowds.

Experts yesterday said the free entry offer began during the Spring Festival, but the policy has led to a barrage of complaints over people talking loudly or running in the halls.

Under a recent state government notice, all national museums and provincial comprehensive museums under the management of the state department of cultural relics were told to stop charging entry fees this year.

Memorial halls listed as national patriotism education facilities will also open for free from next year.

Though the Shanghai Art Museum was not listed among these, it still opened for free during the Spring Festival and attracted more than 22,000 visitors.

The number of visitors last Sunday alone reached 6,000. However, art lovers claimed it was too crowded for them to appreciate art works.

"The art hall was just like a wet market during the Spring Festival," said Li Wei, a student who visited the museum on Sunday.

"Many children were running and playing in the halls and people were shouting loudly.

"I could not enjoy the masterpieces of art."

The museum in Jiading District also opened for free during the holidays, attracting about 20,000 visitors.

According to museum official Zhao Shengtu, only 100 to 200 people came to visit when tickets were priced at 20 yuan (US$2.70).

"More cleaners and security guards should be arranged when the museum is open to the public for free," said Zhao, who added that "most visitors did not show respect to the art works."

Zhao said museums and memorial halls encouraged to set free opening days for the public needed to upgrade some of their services.

According to the state government notice, museums and memorial halls can still charge fees for special or guest exhibitions.

(Shanghai Daily February 16, 2008)

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