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Exhibition highlights fun of collecting

Around 1,000 articles of historical and contemporary significance in export silverware, card cases, depression-era glassware and Chinese hair ornaments will be on show at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from tomorrow (August 13) until April 9, next year.

The exhibition, "The Fun of Collecting", featuring items selected from the collections of Jennings Ku, Alan Chan, Jackie Leung and Peter Chu, illustrates the collectors' distinctive tastes and highlights the fun of collecting.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (August 12), the Assistant Director (Heritage and Museums) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Dr Louis Ng Chi-wa, said that despite the old adage "riding a hobby saps one's will to make progress", collectors of all ages were still dedicated to their hobby. He said this showed that collecting was fun and had great value.

Dr Ng said the aim of collecting was not merely to own something of value; it was also educational, nurturing connoisseurship and providing enthusiasts with much enjoyment.

"On display are mainly objects for daily use, but they are marvellously designed and finely crafted. It offers a rare opportunity for us to view such spectacular treasures and share with the four collectors the joy they find in collecting and possessing these precious objects," Dr Ng said.

The emergence and prevalence of card cases stem from the widespread use of visiting cards (or calling cards) within social circles in Europe and America in the 19th century. Card cases were an essential accessory for ladies and gentlemen of that period. Featuring original, slim and elegant designs, the card cases were produced to match the fashions of the times and to make an individual statement about personal tastes. Their casting, engraving, setting and painting distinguish them as true works of art.

For the exhibition, Jennings Ku has selected a number of cases made of various materials, including metal, ivory, mother-of-pearl, lacquer, papier mache, tortoiseshell, mosaic, wood, leather and needlework.

Alan Chan's collection of export silver not only draws viewers' attention to the beauty of this silverware, but also the unique historical background and the cultural tastes of both the East and the West that they embody.

Silver has always had a special appeal. Chinese export silver in particular reflects a distinctive combination of cultural characteristics and aesthetic tastes drawn from both East and West. First produced for Western merchants trading with China in Canton in the 18th century, the silverware made by native craftsmen was primarily copied from European models and decorated with European designs. Eventually, these craftsmen began to introduce traditional Chinese motifs, adding a touch of the exotic that appealed greatly to their Western customers.

The foreign customers who ordered silverware naturally wanted copies of existing European and American designs. The most basic need was for flatware – spoons and forks. Tableware and items for personal use were also in considerable demand. The inscriptions on them have frequently proved to be of value in dating and locating their makers, but they also reflect social and other activities among foreign communities of the period both in China and elsewhere in Asia.

Jackie Leung hopes that through the exhibition, visitors can gain and understanding of the origins and the creative inspiration of depression-era glass.

Depression-era glass generally refers to the often colourful, but sometimes clear transparent glassware manufactured in the United States during the Great Depression in the twenties and thirties. Many years after the Great Depression, this glass has become a highly collectible item and is sought by collectors all over the world. Many people collect the glassware because they recall the memories of their parents and grandparents, who lived through this era.

The predominant colours of this glass are pink, green, cobalt blue, amber, yellow and crystal. American glass manufacturers created dozens of patterns, ranging from plain to playful to elegant.

Ancient Chinese hair ornaments often fascinate collectors with their intricate craftsmanship. Peter Chu's collection of more than 10,000 items includes pieces from as early as the Shang (1766-1050 BC) and Zhou (1027-221 BC) dynasties down to more recent creations from the early days of the Republic (1912-1949). These hairpins, coronets, earrings, ear pendants and other ornaments are made from bones as well as gems and precious metals such as gold, silver, jade, pearls, amber, agate, coral, rock crystal and turquoise. Means such as carving, metalwork, kingfisher inlay (diancui), enamelwork, gilding and inlay were employed to realise these exceptional designs.

To coincide with the exhibition, "My Collecting World: Ultimate Teens' Collections Campaign" has been organised to encourage teenagers to share with others their experiences of collecting. The programme is divided into three sections – collection, exhibition and presentation. All secondary school and tertiary institute students are welcome to submit a written article describing their collection together with images or a video to the Heritage Museum before September 15. For details, please contact the Education Team on 2180 8260 or visit the Heritage Museum’s website at .

Located at 1 Man Lam Road in Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

Car parking is available at the Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport can take the KCR to the Che Kung Temple Station, which is five minutes' walk from the museum.

For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website.

Ends/Saturday, August 12, 2006
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