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Special Article


Storage of Historical Treasures

(Collection Management Unit, Hong Kong Museum of History, 2004)


Collection is the soul of a museum. It not only gives life to a museum, but also records the bits and pieces of the past. Museum collection came from many different places and people. Each of which has a unique story behind. It is the job of our Museum to link up the relations of many different objects and put them inside the exhibition gallery. As they cannot tell the visitors their stories and significance, we use text to speak for them.


The mission of the Hong Kong Museum of History is to collect, display and conduct research on the artefacts illustrating the history of Hong Kong and South China. Since its establishment in 1975, the Hong Kong Museum of History has made strenuous effort in collecting and preserving cultural objects which are closely related to the history of Hong Kong and the South China area. Through active field work, purchases and donations, the Museum has built up a significant collection of historical objects and materials amounting over 84,000 items which could be classified into 4 major collections, namely natural history, archaeology, ethnography and local history. These valuable objects depict the different facets of Hong Kong from the past to present. We always heard the senior said "the present time is not like the past" when they told us stories about the past Hong Kong. In fact, what is the difference between Hong Kong in the past and present? I guess the young generation may not have the answer. The rich collection of artefacts in the Hong Kong Museum of History record the historical information of Hong Kong in such aspects as geology, natural ecosystem, human activities in ancient times, customs and traditions, the way of living of ethnic groups and the social and economic facets of modern Hong Kong. They constitute a huge database for Hong Kong history.


Most of our fine collections are currently on display in the permanent exhibition "The Hong Kong Story". Through these exhibits, visitors are brought back to the past Hong Kong to experience the tremendous historical changes of this city. The Collection Management Unit is responsible to take good care of all collection items with significant historical value. When Collection Management Unit receives the objects, we will assign an accession number for each object which will be marked at the back of the object or somewhere not prominent. Then we will take photos and measurements of the objects and they become the collection items of the Museum. As there is a wide variety of collection items, they will be classified and stored in the most suitable cabinets. Some items, like historical photographs and postcards, require special attention. We will mount the historical photographs on acid-free or low alkaline paper. Then the photographs can be stored inside archival boxes which are acid-free or low alkaline. This can prevent the contamination of the surface of photographs by dirt particles and wrapping paper that may lead to the chemical reaction like oxidation, yellowing and colour fastness. The collection stores in the Museum are air-conditioned round the clock. The temperature and relative humidity of the collection stores are controlled at 20℃-24℃ and 50%-60% respectively. The relative humidity for metal store is controlled at 30%-40%. When it is found that collection items are in poor condition, Collection Management staff will bring the objects to the Conservators to receive treatment. This is to ensure that the collection items are in good condition and ready for display in future.


The computerization of Museum collection is about to complete. You will soon be able to see our collection items of different categories via the worldwide web.


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