Zhejiang Museum of Natural History is one of the longest-history museums created by Chinese people alone, and also the unique provincial museum mainly focusing on collections, exhibitions and research on specimens of life science and earth science. Its precursor is the West Lake Museum established on a basis of the West Lake Exposition in 1929. According to historical materials, the grand exposition then contained eight departments and two institutions. The museum, covering the maximum area at that time, was divided into several branch museums such as marine products, plants, insects, animals, minerals, zoo, Dayao Mountain (in Guangxi Province) and so forth. The exhibition enjoyed abundant species and numerous exhibits. The exposition left a profound influence, and it would be a great pity if exhibits were short of proper management. So the exposition applied to build the West Lake Museum by the provincial government and move part of exhibits to donate to the museum for memory and appreciation.
During the war, Zhejiang West Lake Museum migrated successively from Fangyan in Yongkang County, SanYan Temple in Lishui City, Nanzhou Village in Songyang County, and Longquan County. Under the toughest conditions, Mr. DongYumao, the former curator, together with his colleagues such as Zhong Guoyi, Kang Meiye and so forth, saved museum collections from destruction. So far, several hundred specimens surviving through 80 years have been kept well in ZMNH, ranking the “senior” among the whole exhibits.
After 1949, the West Lake Museum got a new life, and was renamed “Zhejiang Provincial Museum” in 1952. In July 1984, the nature department at that time had independent accounting system and became today’s Zhejiang Museum of Natural History. The museum was located at No. 71, Jiaogong Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, covering a total area of 6,000 square meters and an exhibition area of 3,051square meters. And it was open to the public in January, 1998. During more than 20 years under the concern from the superior leadership and relative departments, ZMNH has insisted on “the goal of keeping close to the reality, life and people” and effectively developed the function of the museum. ZMNH has received much reputation such as the National and Provincial Bases for Popular Science Education, Base for Provincial Patriotism Education, Base to Popularize Environmental Science in Hangzhou, Advanced Collective of Science Popularization, Advanced Unit of Ecological Morals Education for the Minors, and so on.
ZMNH is a non-profit, open and permanent cultural institution invested and managed by the government. The museum boasts of 75 staff members, four-fifths of whom are professional staff, 27 members with senior professional title and 14 with mid level title. The organizational structure can be divided into four sections with 12 sub-section offices. The four sections are Comprehensive Management, Life Science, Earth Science, Popular Science and Service.
In collections, there are more than 120,000 objects gathered and collected by the museum alone, or donated by individuals or units, such as ancient life, mineral, rock, plant, mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, aquatic invertebrate, insect, oil painting of nature and so on. These collected objects cover extensive fields and assembling rare curiosities. In addition, dinosaur eggs, marine reptile fossils, animal remains in cultural relicts, marine organisms, and birds enjoy rich collections and distinctive features. Moreover, several hundred samples such as Dinosaurs in Jiangshan (in Zhejiang Province), Pterosaurs in Linhai, Zhejiang, Whale shark, Grey whale, are the best specimens in contrast to their counterparts at home and abroad.
ZMNH attaches importance on scientific management, and establishes the storehouse with constant temperature and humidity to regularly fumigate the specimens and to make sure them in good condition. Additionally, there are adequate systems to manage the storehouse and collections, strict in-and-out procedures and safety precaution during the exhibition so as to let collections free from all hazards. The museum applies the database to search, check and scan collection accounts, modernizes the way of collection management, makes a backup by both electric and paper texts, and assures to maintain files for rare specimens, all of which have promoted the museum enterprise to a new level. In 2005, Zhejiang Museum of Natural History was entitled as “Excellent Files (Units)” by the National Heritage Bureau.
In academic research, there are publications of more than 40 treatises, such as Flora of China, Fauna of Zhejiang Province, Fauna in the Hemudu Site in Yuyao City in Zhejiang Province during the Neolithic Age, Research on Natural Resources of Jiulongshan Nature Reserve in Zhejiang Province, Omeisaurus Maoianus, Seagull and Tern in China, Animals in Xixi Wetland in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, Waterfowl in China’s Wetlands, and Inheriting Civilization in Communicating Science—— Essays on Museum Studies. Moreover, Atlas of Treasures in Zhejiang Museum of Natural History has been awarded the “Second Prize of the Excellent Sci-tech Books in the 13th Science and Technology Press in Eastern China”. Besides, the museum boasts of over 30 science books and about 400 academic theses, and has made investigations into natural resources or general planning of natural reserves such as Jiulongshan in Suichang County, Zhejiang, Jiushan Islands in Zhejiang, Dapanshan in Zhejiang, as well as the Ecological Function Protection Zone of Mudflat and Wetland in Haishan Village, Yuhuan County, Zhejiang. What’s more, there are around 70 projects at national, provincial and ministerial level, and more than 20 academic results that have won awards, such as “Research on Classification Standard of Nature Category Collections”, “Research on Chinese Crested Tern’s Productivity and Protection”, “Research on the Influence of Urbanization on Birds and Their Habitats”, “Research on Pterosaur Fossils in Zhejiang”, “Research on the Paleo-environment in Zhejiang’s Cultural Relics”.
ZMNH also extends academic exchanges between museums at home and abroad. It has cooperated with Taizhong Museum of Natural History in Taiwan District to unfold the investigation into Seabird’s Productivity in Zhoushan Islands. So far, it has made great advances in studying fossils of both ZMNH and others in Zhejiang Province, and has published several papers in the Science Citation Index (SCI) Journal List in cooperation with Chinese Academy of Science, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in Japan, the University of Montana in the USA, and so forth. In 2004, Zhejiang Biodiversity Institute was founded, which set up a good platform for studying biological diversity in Zhejiang Province.
In education, various exhibitions have been held for more than 100 times, in which Display of Dinosaurs and Marine Animals won “Excellence of China’s Top Ten Exhibits in 1998” and the Special Exhibition of Precious Fossils Arrested by Hangzhou Customs received “The Most Comprehensive Benefit Award in Zhejiang Exhibitions in 2007”.
ZMNH, focusing on social hotspots and taking account of the minors’ characteristics, duly hold lively and various activities to attract students to enter the museum, for instance, the “Contest of Natural Knowledge”, “Family Garden”, “Summer Camp of I-Love-Nature”, “Show of Making Specimens”, “Hundreds of Children’s Drawing Birds”, and “Contest of Hangzhou Pupils’ Observing Birds”. Besides, the museum also goes to schools and communities to provide more than 100 lectures on Bird Knowledge, Plant Category, Specimen Classification, Dinosaur Knowledge, Basic Knowledge of Mineralogy, Museum Education, and so on. It then makes interaction with schools, founds a ZMNH-teenage team to popularize science, and builds a volunteer team of more than 100 members. All of these drive the museum to be an importance place to learn scientific knowledge, foster national spirit, and cultivate the taste.
In exchange and cooperation, ZMNH strengthens to communicate with other museums in China, and has successively held three-time training classes and seminars sponsored by Chinese Association of Natural Science Museum. In 2005, ZMNH held the “Seminar of the Straits’ Modern Museum Exhibit Concept”. Moreover, it also has received the counterparts from different provinces, cities, and autonomous regions for several times.
ZMNH develops the advantage of provincial museum, and steps out to help dozens of museums at prefecture or county level to expand nature display, support specimens, join to design and exhibit, and train the guides, for instance, Longquan Museum, China Bamboo Museum, Huzhou Museum, Longwangshan Protection Zone in Anji and Natural Reserve of Qingliangfeng. In 2001, KangXimin, the curator, led the professional staff to Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region, planned and arranged exhibits of “Mystic North Tibet Plateau——Exhibition of Natural Resources and Scientific Investigation Results”, one of the biggest activities for the 50th Anniversary of Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, which received a good reputation from the Central Delegation and leadership of the autonomous region.
ZMNH actively extends cultural exchanges with the outside world. It has received scholars and foreign guests from Japan, the USA, Germany and Taiwan District for over 60 times, and has sent more than 80 members to go outsides to make investigation, research, study, and academic exchanges. In 2004, the museum made a tie of sisterhood with Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in Japan, and staged exhibitions seven times in Japan as well as other countries. The museum plays a positive role in carrying forward the national spirit and disseminating fine Chinese culture.
Translated and Edited by Xu Ming