Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the opening ceremony of "The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia" exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of History today (January 29):
Ms Caroline Wilson (British Consul General to Hong Kong and Macao), Dr Andrew Burnett (Deputy Director of the British Museum), Dr Simon Ip (Deputy Chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club), Mr Philip Marshall (Director of International Engagement of the British Museum), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the opening ceremony of "The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia" exhibition.
Ancient Mesopotamia had been the home of a succession of great cities and empires from which many of the fundamentals of human civilisations emerged, particularly in the areas of science, art, law and government. Through the 170 stunning artefacts meticulously selected from the collection of the British Museum and the exciting multimedia programmes, the exhibition explores three of the great centres of the ancient civilisations, namely, Sumer, Assyria and Babylon, bringing their rich history to life.
For some 2,000 years, the history of Mesopotamia had been lost, forgotten and remained a mystery. Thanks to the archaeological excavations in the mid-19th century and the conservation efforts made by the British Museum, we are privileged to be able to see, for the first time in Hong Kong, such an impressive showcase of the precious artefacts of ancient Mesopotamia.
This exhibition is one of the series of mega exhibitions organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to introduce some of the most important ancient civilisations in the Chinese and the world history to Hong Kong people. A notable example was the first emperor of China and Qin dynasty exhibition held last year, which had attracted a record-breaking attendance of 450,000 in four months' time.
Talking about figures, 2012 was indeed a fruitful year for our public museums. They together attracted a total of 5.8 million visitors, setting a new record for Hong Kong's museum attendance. We trust the handsome ensemble of Mesopotamia artefacts at this exhibition will also attract an overwhelming response in the community, setting a good beginning for this year, 2013.
This exhibition marks another successful collaboration between our museums and the British Museum, after "Egyptian Treasures", "Treasures of the World's Cultures", "The Ancient Olympic Games" and "Fantastic Creatures from the British Museum" exhibitions staged respectively in 1998, 2007, 2008 and 2012.
Last November, during my official trip to the United Kingdom, for the first time as the Chief Secretary for Administration, I met with a number of prominent leaders of the cultural and creative community there over a round-table luncheon held at the Royal Academy of Arts. It was also attended by Mr Philip Marshall from the British Museum. I appealed to them for enhanced collaboration between the two places in strengthening the cultural and creative software, and for the provision of more training opportunities for arts practitioners from Hong Kong.
I am therefore very pleased to know that the British Museum is kind enough to make an offer of providing international training programmes for our arts administrators. This will not only bring our decade-long co-operation with the British Museum to new heights, but also strengthen our cultural software in the advent of the West Kowloon Cultural District, which will at the end benefit the people of Hong Kong.
Indeed, to give this nurturing of arts administrators a greater push, the Chief Executive announced in his Policy Address earlier this month that additional funding of $150 million will be allocated to strengthen the training of arts administrators with different levels of experience in the next five years, including internships, further studies and diversified professional training. I hope this will lead to more training or secondment opportunities to be made available by the British Museum and other overseas arts and cultural institutions.
Last but not the least, my heartfelt thanks go to the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust for their generous sponsorship for this exhibition under the "Hong Kong Jockey Club Series", which signifies the Trust's strong support for our museums and commitment to the promotion of art and culture in Hong Kong.
I look forward to continuous collaboration with the British Museum and the Hong Kong Jockey Club in bringing more world-class exhibitions to Hong Kong and boosting the vibrancy of the art scene here in the years to come.
May I wish the ancient Mesopotamia exhibition a huge success. Thank you very much.
Ends/Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Issued at HKT 19:12