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Cabinet against closing NPM Taipei branch for renovation

2018/11/13 18:16:08

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) The Cabinet has adopted the stance that the Taipei branch of the National Palace Museum (NPM) will not be closed while it undergoes renovation, Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said Tuesday, contradicting remarks made a day earlier by NPM Director Chen Chi-nan (陳其南).

Kolas was responding to surging media reports about the museum's controversial renovation plan, which opposition Kuomintang Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) exposed during a Monday legislative hearing.

The lawmaker alleged, citing the minutes of an NPM interior meeting, that the museum, an important tourist attraction in northern Taiwan, could be shut down for three years for renovation starting 2020, with its collections to be shipped to the museum's southern branch, about 250 kilometers away in Chiayi County.

Asked at the Monday hearing about the possibility of the shutdown, Chen admitted that the plan's details have not been finalized.

He contended that because the Taipei facility and the southern branch are both part of the NPM, there would be "no issue of closing the NPM" and that renovating the Taipei branch would simply mean changing the exhibition venue.

The comments, however, triggered heated debate in local society, with some worrying that Taiwan's tourism industry might be negatively affected if the NPM's Taipei branch, which draws nearly 5 million visitors each year -- 75 percent of whom are overseas visitors, according to Chen -- is closed for a major overhaul.

Kolas declared that the renovation plan is still being discussed within the NPM, which has not submitted any conclusions to the Executive Yuan.

The Executive Yuan, she explained, approved a draft New NPM project from 2018 to 2023 on Dec. 6, 2017. Instead of proposing to close the museum, the plan suggests that "partial staff members and national treasures be relocated south during renovation," Kolas said.

Moreover, in a briefing of its operations at a regular Executive Yuan meeting Jan. 11, the NPM estimated that its Taipei branch would draw 5.4 million visitors in 2020 and 5.6 million in 2021, Kolas added.

The plans reported by the media are "still being discussed within the NPM" and no conclusions have yet been submitted to the Executive Yuan, she said.

"The Executive Yuan's stance is that the NPM will not be closed during renovation, while its southern branch will continue to expand and see its exhibition contents enriched," according to Kolas.

Also Tuesday, Chen held a press conference in which he explained that the plan to close the NPM's Taipei branch is simply one of many options, not the only one, in the museum's plans to renovate its aging facilties.

Currently, the museum is planning to adjust exhibition venues so that its Taipei branch will be able to remain open while the facility undergoes the planned renovation, he said.

"Under the New NPM project, there is no definite plan to close the whole branch," Chen added.

Speaking of the media splash, the curator described it as "a good phenomenon, which means that society pays high attention to the NPM's operations."

(By Sabine Cheng, Y.F. Low and Elizabeth Hsu)