Hunan Provincial Museum was founded half a century ago. Along with the development of Hunan Provincial Museum, the past fifty years has seen the prospering of museums within the boundary of Hunan Province.
The exhibition building of Hunan Provincial Museum built in 1956
The office building of Hunan Provincial Museum built in 1957
In 1897, Chenzhou Society established the Chenzhou Society Museum, which was doomed to close due to the failure of the Reform Movement in 1898. In 1923, Hunan Museum of Education was founded, and renamed as Hunan Provincial Museum in 1927. Unfortunately, the museum was demolished in the war in 1930 and never restored.
In March 1951, the Preparatory Office for the Hunan Provincial Museum was set up at Baiqinyuan, Changsha. In 1953, the Office was amalgamated with the Preparatory Office for the Hunan Science Museum at Liuzheng Street. In 1954, the combined Preparatory Office was moved to the former Pingda Middle School at Hunan Martyr’s Park. For the first time, the museum had its own space to house its collections including cultural relics, specimen of minerals, animals and plants that were once separately kept at Baiqinyuan and Liuzheng Street. However, to display the collections needs more space. In 1955, an exhibition building with 1,643 square meters was constructed under the support of the provincial government and the supervision of the Preparatory Office. On Feb 19, 1956, Hunan Provincial Museum’s first exhibition was open to public. Six more exhibitions followed. Since then, the infrastructure and the work of the museum have been improving greatly.
In this period, the museum aims to be a “regional museum”. Therefore, Hunan Provincial Museum focused its initial collection on items that represented the history, culture, folk customs, art, and natural resources of the whole province. Six exhibitions including mineral resources, agricultural resources, handcrafts, and relics of Chu State were held. Among them, exhibitions like Relics of Chu State and Famous Modern Hunanese have become the most featured parts, which provided a solid foundation for the museum’s collections today.
The discovery and excavation of Mawangdui Han Tombs (a family cemetery of Marquis Dai in Western Han Dynasty) in Changsha during 1972 to 1974 was a great archaeological discovery in the 20th century China. It was also of great significance in the development of Hunan Provincial Museum. The excavation work got massive public and governmental support, and was reported in the media of more than 160 countries, which brought the museum into the limelight of the country and even the world. With more than three thousand pieces of cultural relics unearthed, the museum’s collection was significantly enhanced and exhibitions upgraded. Meanwhile, the staff of Hunan Provincial Museum was wholly trained in the process of excavation and the museum’s researches on many disciplines were advanced and extended.
In 1973, a new storage building covering 3,510 square meters was constructed to house the precious findings from the Mawangdui Han Tombs under the guidance of the State Council. The building was designed to meet the requirement of humidity and temperature in the protection of the cultural relics unearthed from Mawangdui Han Tombs. Later, in response to the increasing demand of the public who want to have a look at these precious treasures, the building was reconstructed to preserve and exhibit at the same time, which was once one of the hot destinations of Changsha citizens.
The building built in 1974 for the preservation and exhibition of the findings from Mawandui Han Tombs
With increasing archaeological discoveries, the amount of archaeological collections grew quickly. Therefore, the original policy that laid equal stress on both natural and historical items was gradually abolished. Especially after the excavation of Mawangdui Han Tombs, a new archaeology-history-focused Hunan Provincial Museum began to stand out. The museum’s mineral collection was given to Geological Bureau of Hunan Province in 1971 and the animal and plant specimen collections were lent to the First Middle School of Changsha in 1979. Finally, the museum totally focused its work on historical relics and archaeological works. In the late 1980s, a new concept---“artistic and historical museum” was put forward and was swiftly and widely accepted. Under the direction of this concept, the collection and exhibitions of Hunan Provincial Museum had gone beyond its confined boundary of history and archaeology.
A new entrance tower of Hunan Provincial Museum built in 1994
A new exhibition building of Hunan Provincial Museum built in 1999
As a result of the tourism boom in the 1990’s, the old exhibition building of the Mawangdui Han Tombs became unable to meet the need of a rapidly increasing number of visitors. At the turn of the century, a modern exhibition building with an area of 14,000 square meters was constructed in order to better preserve and display the magnificent ancient Hunan civilization.
The completion of this new exhibition building was a milestone in the history of Hunan Provincial Museum. It was a driving force for the work of the museum. Since then, various commemorative and art exhibitions held in the new exhibition building have not only enriched the cultural life of citizens in Changsha, but also brought vigor to the museum and helped it build up a professional team.
In March, 2008, in order to reach more audiences, Hunan Provincial Museum began to implement free admission. According to the safety requirement of the cultural relics and the carrying capacity of the museum, 5,000 tickets were provided each day from Tuesday to Sunday. Until March, 2009, Hunan Provincial Museum received nearly 1.6 million visitors in its first year of free admission.
In July, 2010, Hunan Provincial Museum launched a Reorganization and Expansion Program, which is scheduled to complete within three years, which will certainly promote the museum’s service and provide more opportunities for our friends from all over the world to get better understanding about our museum and culture.