Under the management of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, museums acquire, conserve, research on, exhibit and communicate for the purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment. Museum collections form a composite picture of our cultural, historical and natural heritage, and the preservation of such collections represents a long-term commitment to existing and future generations. The following roles are performed:
To present and sponsor exhibitions on the visual arts, history, culture, archaeology, and science and technology for the enjoyment of the public;
To promote an interest in and better understanding of the visual arts, science technology and the history and culture of Hong Kong through a balanced range of museum educational activities and sharing of experience with local artists, scholars and experts in the fields;
To support and promote contemporary Hong Kong art and encourage artistic creativity;
To support research on local heritage, history and the visual arts;
To provide and operate venues for hire for the presentation of exhibitions, lectures and film shows and studio facilities for artistic creation;
To acquire and conserve local films and related materials and provide facilities for film research and educational activities for film appreciation.
Museums have different characteristics and objectives. They are professionally managed to provide the ideal environment for the conservation and display of collections. Large-scale thematic exhibitions are held every year to add variety to the permanent exhibitions with the ultimate goal to attract more people to visit museums. Extension activities such as lectures, classes, film shows, guided tours, demonstrations, workshops and travelling exhibitions are organized to stimulate interest and popularize museum services. Some of the facilities in museums are open for public hiring.
Of the seven major museums, the Hong Kong Museum of Art plays an important role in preserving the cultural heritage of China and promoting art with a local focus. The Hong Kong Science Museum, with its predominantly interactive exhibits, illustrates various scientific principles and the ways technology is used to improve the quality of life. The Hong Kong Space Museum serves to popularize astronomy and space science. The Hong Kong Heritage Museum features a variety of specially designed exhibition possibilities to cover different aspects of history, the arts and culture. The Hong Kong Museum of History collects, conserves, processes, studies and displays cultural objects which are closely related to the archaeology, history, ethnography and natural history of Hong Kong and the South China area. The Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence features Hong Kong's coastal defence history in the past 600 years. The Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum gives a comprehensive overview of the life and career of Dr Sun, and Hong Kong's vital role in the reform movements and revolutionary activities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Department also manages seven smaller museums and two heritage centres. The museums include the Flagstaff House Museum of Teaware which is the only subject museum devoted to the promotion of Chinese tea drinking culture; the Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum which displays its tomb finds and exhibitions on the Han dynasty life styles and history; the Law Uk Folk Museum, the Sheung Yiu Folk Museum as well as the Sam Tung Uk Museum, which house exhibitions on the history and restoration of old Hakka village houses reflecting Chinese folk life and customs; and the open-air Hong Kong Railway Museum which encompasses the old Tai Po Market Railway Station with historical railway carriages, a steam locomotive and a diesel electric locomotive and the Fireboat Alexander Grantham Exhibition Gallery which endured witness to the history of Hong Kong's sea rescue services. The two heritage centres include the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre which displays Hong Kong's cultural heritage; and the Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery cum Heritage Trail Visitors Centre displays various relics, history, customs and cultural life belonging to the members of the Tang Clan.
The Hong Kong Film Archive's major functions are to acquire, preserve, catalogue and document Hong Kong films and related materials. It also organizes film programmes, present schematic exhibitions and publishes books and publications related to Hong Kong cinema.
The Art Promotion Office (APO) aims to raise the public's interest in art creation and appreciation, and let everyone experience the fun of art. APO focuses on providing visual art activities and services of high quality and diversity, and works as strategic partners with various art practitioners and organisations, groups or parties who are dedicated to promote art. APO introduces different scopes of visual art forms to the public, so as to connect art with people and the community and to embrace art in our daily life. The Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre (vA!) and Oil Street Art Space (Oi!) are the two art spaces managed by APO. vA! is an open, multi-directional art space provided with professional facilities for art learning and a centre for artists to display their creativity and exchange ideas. While Oi! is a new platform for exchanging ideas that aims to nurture young artists, promote community art and develop as an innovative and engaging venue for encouraging collaboration and co-creation in art.
Operating from 13 purpose-equipped conservation laboratories, the Conservation Office devises, implements and evaluates conservation programmes for museum artifacts and heritage objects. The Section also provides technical assistance and advice on the preservation requirements of collection items and loan exhibits for the public museums.
The Antiquities and Monuments Office is responsible for conserving places of historic interest, searches for, identifies and records a wide range of items. Among these are historical buildings of Chinese and Western types, historical stones (e.g. boundary or foundation stones), archaeological sites, forts, tombs and graves, bridges, rock carvings and inscriptions, and even old street furniture (e.g. old lamp posts or letter boxes).
All over Hong Kong, there are relics of human activity spanning some 6,000 years. Historical buildings, sites and ancient structures may be protected legally under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance or by administrative measures in addition to the publicity and promotion of heritage education and preservation.
The Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre occupies the historic Blocks S61 and S62 of the former Whitfield Barracks at Kowloon Park. It is committed to presenting and explaining the conservation work to the wider public to enhance their understanding and enjoyment and the value they place on the shared heritage. A standing exhibition on Hong Kong's cultural heritage will be open in 2009.