Zhejiang Museum of Natural History (ZMNH) is among a handful of provincial museums of natural history in China, and one of the museums founded solely by Chinese people that has the longest history. With great endeavors made by generations of its staff over the past eighty years, ZMNH has now become a nationally renowned museum of natural history with a modern rationale and rich characteristics of Zhejiang Province. On the occasion of celebrating the 80th anniversary of ZMNH, aiming at fostering the staff members’ sense of accomplishment, sense of commitment, and sense of responsibility on one hand, and gaining continuing attention and support from the government and the society on the other hand, which is the driving force for our future development and expansion.
The history of ZMNH dates back to year 1929 when its precursor, the West Lake Museum was founded based on the West Lake Exposition. According to historical records, the Grand Exposition then was divided into eight sections and two institutions, and the museum section was composed of displays focusing on marine products, plants, animals, insects, Dayao Mountain (in Guangxi Province), minerals, and zoo, respectively, with collections of fabulous scope and diversity. The Exposition was so successful and influential, that with the approval of the provincial government, it was soon decided to build the West Lake Museum to preserve some of the precious collections and donations to the Exposition. At its beginning though, the Museum lacked systematic displays for natural sciences. Dr. Dong Yumao, who became the curator of the Museum later, along with his assistants, collected and made numerous specimens of plants and animals, and also conducted specimen exchange programs with oversea institutions, which greatly expanded the Museum’s collections and shaped the research work conducted at the Museum. During the War, the Museum re-located from one place to another, but even under those extremely tough conditions, Dr. Dong and his colleagues such as Zhong Guoyi, Qian Huixin, Kang Meiye, Gu Jianyi and so forth, made tremendous efforts saving the museum collections, books, and instruments from destruction while still maintaining specimen collection and research activities. The perseverance and the spirit of those pioneers encouraged and propelled generations of the followers at ZMNH.
With the founding of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949, the West Lake Museum had a great revival, and was renamed as “Zhejiang Provincial Museum” in 1952. In July 1984, the Department of Natural Science within the Museum formed an independent entity which was ultimately named as “Zhejiang Museum of Natural History”. Due to space and funding limitations, the newly-formed ZMNH did not function actively until the exhibition galleries were open to the public in January, 1998. ZMNH is featured by its unique and precious collections and specimens, the systematic and productive research outcomes from its staff members, and its versatile and state-of-the-art facility-based education exhibitions targeting the students and the society. Remarkably, the Display of Dinosaurs and Marine Animals won the award of “China Top Ten Excellent Exhibition” in 1998. Supported by Zhejiang Provincial government, a new ZMNH building was completed and opened to the public on July 28, 2009.
The new ZMNH building marks another giant leap and turning point in the history of ZMNH. Such a modern museum with combined functions of education, collection, cultural exchange and recreation will undoubtedly better suit social needs and fulfill its social responsibilities. With the goal of “To build and share together, to benefit people through culture development” and the “People-oriented” rationale, we will further strengthen our scientific management and inner control system, strive to “Be close to reality, to life and to people”, to continuously enhance our capability and quality of serving the society, and to make the new ZMNH a complex platform for education, research, scientific exploration, information storage, and culture exchange, which can help to meet people’s increasing spiritual demands. We will also proactively explore new models for the development of ZMNH, and make special efforts in areas such as exhibition of excellence, branded educational services, widespread countryside services, collection through multiple channels, intensification of academic research, scientific inner control and management, socialized logistical support, standardized safety management, modernized information management, and resource sharing among peer museums.
Looking back will allow us to learn lessons from history, while looking forward would help to accelerate scientific development. We conclude that the accomplishments of ZMNH rooted in the tremendous endeavors of several generations of the ZMNH staff, and also rely heavily on a stable and peaceful social environment, support from the government and the society, and general strategic guides by “Deng Xiaoping Theory”, the “Three Represents Thought”, and the “Scientific Development Concept”.
“To recall the past and compare it with the present, to carry on the past and to open new ways for future.” Each staff member should be proud of the rich history and profound changes of ZMNH over the past eighty years, and meanwhile, the new starting point and the way ahead of us bring new responsibilities and commitments. In light of the strategy of sustainable development, and the developing trend of modern museums nationwide and overseas, we have both challenges and opportunities in many aspects. As the new generation of the ZMNH staff, we should take on the mission of making greater achievements through our innovative and diligent work. This is not only a necessity for the development of a modern museum, but also a call for ZMNH to advance with the times.
(Translated by XuMing)