Starting Unprecedented Renovation
As China’s economy and society developed rapidly,particularly at the end of 20th century,the trend towards economic globalization became more and more clear. The socialist market economy of China was further improved. The demand by the people for the Museum of Geology has been constantly increasing.Indeed,the old building with its out-dated exhibit concepts lagged far behind the nation’s social development. The Museum building,in particular,was seriously damaged both as a result of 40 years of weathering and the effects of the Tangshan earthquake. Though reinforced and repaired several times,on the whole the building was not built to withstand large-scale earthquake tremors,and it lacked many basic facilities. By the end of the 1990’s these deficiencies had not been resolved. By contrast,by the end of 20th century,many other similar museums around the world had been renovated or rebuilt. The Geological Museum of China,which is representative of geological museums in China,was in poor condition. When it rained,pools would form in its storage areas;on fine summer days,the exhibit halls were sultry and hot. Power supplies were insufficient for the demands of the building and electrical wires were often worn through. The fire hoses lacked pressure in the water supply lines and security facilities were flawed. The only lift often stopped working.and the entire building was riddled with problems. The designs of the exhibits,which resembled that of a textbook.and the nature of the exhibit labels with simply the name of the specimen and no additional information,were insufficient to meet the new demands of a developing museum and its visitors. Although steps had been taken to transform.the exhibits in a way that popularized science,they were still incomplete. For the professional,it was insufficient;to ordinary visitors,it was very often incomprehensible. As a result the number of visitors decreased year by year. The Museum was facing grave challenges.
Fortunately,this drew the attention of leaders in the Ministry of Land and Resources and the relevant state departments. In July 2000,guided by the Financial Department of the Ministry,the Geological Museum of China submitted a petition entitled,“Proposal of Repair and Renovation of the Main Building of the Geological Museum of China”to the Ministry,Nevertheless at the end of September 2000,the plight of the Museum deepened and it quietly closed.although a few days later a notice of closure of the Museum was announced in Beijing Evening News. This drew the attention of both Chinese and foreign visitors as well as the media. As a direct result,in December 2000,the Ministry of Finance issued a document called“Special Funds for Renovation and Facility Upgrading of the Geological Museum of China”(CaiJianNo.712). The Museum was therefore given the most significant opportunity to expand and flourish since its establishment.
In a timely re-organization the Ministry of Land and Resources appointed Cheng Liwei as the director and concurrently the secretary of the committee of the Communist Party of China in the Museum.It was the first time that the head of the Museum had also served as a Party 1eader in the history of the Museum.In the afternoon of January 2,2001,the Ministry Of Land and Resources held the first ministerial meeting of that year and it was devoted to a discussion of the reconstruction of the Museum. The meeting approved the reconstruction proposal submitted by the Museum. The meeting also required that the Museum should be built into a “patriotic educational base” and a “popular science educational base”,as well as a nationally recognized and internationally renowned geological museum,that would live up to the name of the“window”on land and resources of China. According to the provisions set out in the legal document covering the construction and also the relevant authorities of the state,the director of the Museum was placed in charge of overall planning,construction and decision-making for the project. Certain retirees and staff members who were familiar with civil engineering work as well as the mission of the Museum were invited to form a task force to implement the project. The project office of the task force,under the direct leadership of the director of the Museum,oversaw the entire organization and implementation of the re-building program. To ensure standardized operating procedures,it set out ordinances for the management of the project and entrusted an accounting firm to oversee financial management and auditing.
According to the“Approval on the Proposal of Repair and Renovation of the Geological Museum of China”and the relevant requirements of the ministry leaders.it was decided that the project would be carried out in three phases:in the first phase,earthquake-resistance reinforcement and exterior renovation;in the second phase,installation of facilities and interior renovation;and in the third phase the complete remodeling of the permanent exhibits and interior fittings. In order to maintain the existing style of the exterior appearance of the Museum and the Ministry,which stands alongside the museum,it was decided that reconstruction of both buildings was to proceed simultaneously. The team in charge of the ministry project decided that the Information Centre Project office would assume full responsibility for the first phase of work on the Museum,but with the assistance of the Museum. In consideration of the professional requirements of the museum,it was agreed that the second and third phases would be handled by the Museum itself.
Geological Museum of China before renovation.
The first move of the Museum began on February 1,2001. For 58 days and nights,the entire staff of the Museum were involved in the moving effort,busy making boxes,and packing specimens and materials. All together.they moved a total of
2500 boxes of specimens,328 boxes of books and materials,92 boxes of equipment and an assortment of additional specimens and pieces of equipment. Some of the old exhibit and ground structures were auctioned on the spot. During this period,specimens were stored in four different places. The most precious specimens were kept in the China Merchants Bank at Fuxingmen. The specimens for display were housed in the basement of the Museum’s building. Ordinary specimens and materials were put in a leased 500-square-meter warehouse of the Chinese Geological Material Company in the eastern suburbs of Beijing. Other items were placed in the original specimen workshop of the Museum in Baitasi. Staff members were relocated to work in three separate locations. The offices for the management,finance,Party work.Research＆Development and exhibition art were housed in the Leased offices on the second floor of Tianqi commercial Building at Dahongluochang Street,Xicheng District,Beijing. Departments of social education,storage,societies and associations were moved to the original specimen workshop. Lastly,the newly-established project office was located in a house in the eastern compound of the Museum.
Once the whole building was emptied,various environmental protection surveys were conducted,including checking on the levels of the noxious radon gas so as to make sure that the upgraded building would be environmentally friendly. At the same time,the Earthquake Resistance Research Institute of the China Architectural Science Institute was commissioned to make a comprehensive survey of the building with respect to earthquake resistance,loading capability and aging,and this provided the scientific basis upon which the reinforcement and reconstruction plan was formulated. The overall design of the project was decided upon,and the architectural style of the interior of building was transformed. In order to keep the building as a recognizable landmark in the Xisi area,the general external design of the building remained unchanged. However,subtle changes were made which included the exterior windows. These were designed to remind people of diamond facets.and the introduction of glass walls would add an air of modernity to the building. The exterior walls of the building were faced with light purple-red granite tiles which are in harmony with the buildings of the ministry. The facilities of the building were improved immeasurably. First,all the posts and beams were wrapped with steel sheets,sheetrock walls were added,cracks were repaired,the weight of the external walls and the rooftop were reduced,and the whole building was further reinforced to meet the requirements to resist 8-degree earthquake intensity and last for another 50 years. Secondly,two additional lifts were added to the original one. Lifts without a machinery room were chosen so that they could reach the fifth floor. Thirdly,additional security systems were added,and fire prevention equipment and the electrical wiring were all thoroughly upgraded.
Exterior design 1
Exterior design 2 Exterior design 3
On April 1,2001,the reconstruction project of the Museum formally started.
In January 2002,the ministry built a square on the northern side of both the buildings. It enabled the Museum to open a gate facing onto the main street on the north side.Now,the dreams of several generations of staff were finally realized. The surrounding environment has also been much improved.
From March to October 2002,with the participation of relevant departments of the ministry,the Museum conducted the invitation for bids for the second phase in an orderly and standardized manner. It was one of the first governmental procurement projects in the Beijing construction market. This phase mainly included civil engineering(containing heavy-current engineering and drainage),interior decoration,fire prevention,security,overall wiring,installation of central air-conditioning,lifts and compact specimen storage cases in the Warehouse.
In July 2002,the work of the first phase ended.
On October 15,2002,the work of the second phase began.
From April to June,2003,when the Museum was right in the middle of the second phase and the third phase was scheduled to begin,the SARS epidemic hit China fight out of the blue. This severely hampered the work of the second phase and the tendering process for the third phase. However,SARS did not halt the progress of the project. With far sight.the management took strict preventive measures and ensured the safety of all the staff and a hundred construction workers,and made sure that the project continued with the completion of the requests for bids for the third phase.
At the end of May 2003,a major part of the second phase was completed. As a result,in June,the staff returned to work in the new building. Meanwhile,the third phase began.
Redefining the Guiding Principle for the Museum,Making Innovation in the Exhibition Design in an All-encompassing Way
The second phase-renovation of the principal building was completed at the end of May 2003.
The targeted visitors and the content and form of the permanent exhibits are interrelated through cause and effect. They rely on each other. In a way,the key to the Success of the reconstruction of the Museum lies in whether or not the result of the reconstruction is meaningful to the visitor. In retrospect,after the Museum was opened to the public,though the basic exhibits had been upgraded time and again,the display techniques have been gradually improved,and much attention has been given to the popularization of science by the Party and state leaders particularly since 1980s. The Museum has always tried to pay attention to public opinion and interest,but the targeted audience of the Museum has oscillated between professionals and the general public:this largely due to the lack of a clear definition of the requirements of the visitor to the Museum. As a result.the subjective ideal was separated from the objective reality,and for years there were very few visitors. In considering this.since the beginning of the reconstruction,the Museum has paid particularly close attention to innovation both in the mission and the form of the exhibits themselves. In an attempt to find a new.but feasible innovative approach,the Museum called a forum of many different people and ideas to formulate ideas for the construction and development of the Museum. The forum was held at the scenic area of the Ming Tombs in August 2001. Dozens of geological scholars and professionals from the museum world were present.
Based on the opinions of this forum and some additional meetings held in elsewhere,the Museum made it clear that“the Museum should regard ordinary people as the audience and to focus in particular on teenagers. At the same time.the need to give sufficient attention to the needs of scientists and researchers was also recognized.”It was also made clear that“The basic exhibits should aim to convey scientific knowledge and carry out various activities to popularize science among the ordinary people,again with the focus on teenagers,Simultaneously,the Museum should satisfy the requirements of the professional by gradually setting up a specimen lending system and providing specialized facilities for basic observation and research. Exhibits must be closely connected with the current trends;give attention to human subsistence and quality of life;always bear in mind,while recognizing the important role of land and resources.the state-of-the-art academic thoughts and the 1atest achievements and discoveries;adhere to the principle of“leaving something undone in order to do other things”,carefully handle the relationships between systematic knowledge and highlighting key issues;properly address the relationships between the value of the collection and the goals of the Museum,between the needs of visitors and hot social topics. Both the design of the content and the form of the displays must stay abreast of current trends,such as the need for knowledge,the way of thinking and physiological characteristics of ordinary people,particularly teenagers. It is imperative to enhance the appeal of the exhibits and effectively communicate knowledge.’’
At the same time,in order to broaden the scope,and attain a standard equal to the most advanced exhibits of other first rate museums around the world.all the staff of the Museum was encouraged to participate in extensive investigations and research. More than 20 investigative groups were organized to visit Japan,the UK,France,Russia,the USA,Canada,etc.,as well as about 100 well-known domestic museums of natural sciences and other disciplines. Through the exchange of ideas and experiences gained from these visits,all the museum staff members,particularly the designers,were better prepared,and had broadened their horizons and better understood the developing trends of museums of the world. As a consequence they were confident in their innovative designs for the planned new exhibits of the Museum.
In June 2002,a forum was convened at Xifengsi,Beijing,and included invited retirees and veteran specialists to provide their views and suggestions for the exhibit design of the Museum.
In December 2002,another forum was called at the Fragrant Hill to discuss exhibit design.and at this time a basic concept for the new exhibits began to take shape. The floor plan was readjusted,and based on a circular-layer structure and earth science theory.the first floor was made into the Gallery of the Earth,the second floor was designated for Minerals,Rocks and Gemstones,the third floor for Prehistoric Life and the main Special Exhibition Hall,and the fourth floor for Land and Resources,and a second Special Exhibition Hall. In the past there had been repetition of exhibits,and to avoid the exhibits of each floor were completely re-defined and the design approach of each gallery was reconsidered. “The Earth”takes earth dynamics as the main theme of the exhibit,focusing on the Earth in the universe and the geological effect of endogenic and exogenic geological processes.“The Minerals and Rocks”focuses on the large scale form of mineral crystals.but also investigates the micro-structure of rocks and the mutual relationships between the three major types of rocks.“The Gemstone”gives prominence to the charm and beauty of gemstones from a cultural perspective.“The Prehistoric Life”primarily gives viewers an account of several important events in the evolution of life.“The Land and Resources”tells the audience about the relevancy of both country and state policies. It also looks at laws from four different aspects,namely land resources,mineral resources,maritime resources and surveying and mapping. As far as the actual displays are concerned,the Museum tried hard to make inanimate objects appear lively and interesting,to give thorough explanations to some very difficult theories,and to give visitors as many hands—on experiences as possible,ensuring that there are highlights in each gallery,and creating unique exhibits by exploiting modem exhibition techniques.
In the period when the Museum was closed,while overseeing the progress of the project,management worked hard to expand reform and move forward in all aspects of the museum’s work. In September,2002,after a long period of preparation to meet the requirements for reform in human resources at government-funded institutions and also to restructure management of the Museum once the renovation was complete,the Museum administration adopted a new personnel management system. The number of offices of the Museum was increased from 8 to 14. They were General Office,Human Resources,Finance and Accounting,Party Committee,Collection and Storage,Public Education,Exhibition, Rock and Mineral Research,Stratigraphy and Palaeontology Research,Conservation Laboratory,Information Technology, Public Affairs,Specimen Center and Property Management. The previous management of individual persons was changed to the
management of particular positions. Filling the positions was through competition. With these measures in place,the whole Museum took on a new look. In December 2002,the Museum, still undergoing renovation,was cited as“National Science and Technology Educational Base for Teenagers”. This was enacted jointly by the Ministry of Science and Technology,the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China,the Ministry of Education,and the Chinese Science and Technology Association.
The Project office for Renovation of the Museum strictly abided by the relevant laws and regulations of the state,observed financial rules and civil engineering procedures,and followed the special provisions for procurement. It eliminated all kinds of interference.adhered to the principle of“taking reality as the basis for doing things”,strove to ensure the safety of the architectural structure,and arranged their work rationally so as to guarantee the smooth realization of the renovation targets. When the reinforcement and renovation were completed,the Museum building took on a whole new appearance.
Now the new museum building no longer looked gray and dull. Its previous unimpressive appearance was replaced by a building of modern style with a striking feature mirroring geological structures. It stands tall on the south side of Funei Avenue towards the east end.It is a most eye-catching feature in the area of Xisi. The design of the exterior of the building, masterminded by the Beijing Architectural Design Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences,was chosen from several proposals from a variety of designing entities.The vice minister who was in charge of the Museum made the preliminary decision on the architectural design before it was then given to the Museum for additional suggestions and comments which resulted in the final decision. With the outer coveting of light red--colored granite decorated by glass walls chosen to give the feel of mineral crystals together with“diamond-shaped windows”.the whole building gave the
impression of a huge rock inlaid with mineral crystals. Its unique architectural style is slightly different from that of the building of the ministry,yet they are well synchronized in architectural style. Together the buildings are highly acclaimed.
The inside of the new building is equipped with a state-of-the-art fire prevention system,including automatic fire alarm and sprinklers hydrants and various fire extinguishers. There is an advanced security system.including TV monitors and automatic alarm. The air-conditioning system,as well as the entire power supply system,water supply and drainage system,computer network system,TV receiving system,broadcasting system,and telecommunication system are the most up-to-date systems. The interior,particularly the exhibition halls from first floor to the third floor,have been refurbished to match the architectural structure and the requirements of modem museums and all their modern requirements functions,including Scientific Management. Now each floor,from the first floor to the fourth floor.is divided into three sections,namely the central hall,southern hall and western hall. On the first floor,the central hall is used as the reception
and the southern hall serves as a gift shop. All southern halls from the second floor to the fourth floor and the western hall of the third floor are used for permanent displays. The western halls of the third and fourth floors are used for special exhibits. The central halls of the second floor to the fourth floor are used for lounges,shops and small-scale special exhibits. For example, the central hall on the second floor has the Specimen Consultation Service and the central hall on the third floor has the Specimen Care and Conservation Lab. The central hall on the fourth floor serves as a souvenir shop. The administrative and staff offices are partitioned by glass fixed into stainless steel flames. The transparent,roomy and bright offices are all equipped with specially designed cases for documents,closets,desks and chairs. While enjoying modern facilities.the staff members may constantly enhance their efficiency and interactive capabilities. The completed basic facilities and architectural features provide an amiable atmosphere for both visitors and the staff. It is a convenient,safe environment with an air of modernity and sophisticated culture.
On November 21,2003,the most important specimens were moved back into the building. By the end of March 2004,the work of moving all the“ordinary”specimens had been completed. The former warehouse,which was dusty,unsafe,crowded,leaking.chaotic and with all kinds of different wooden specimen cases,was replaced by specially-made heavy but movable compactor storage cases,protected by high-tech,comprehensive security facilities.
By May 31,2004,the fabrication of the exhibits and both the internal and external building renovations had been completed. The guiding principle for the displays;the content and form of the exhibits had taken substantial leaps forward. First,the concept of the popularization science had been strengthened in numerous Ways. Following the concept of“taking non-professionals as the main body of visitors with a focus on teenagers while giving sufficient attention to the needs of scientists and researchers”had a major impact in designing the exhibits. Our understanding of the Earth as covered in textbooks on nature and physic s which are used in primary and middle schools was covered in the exhibits,but
enhanced in so many different ways.With respect to the form of the displays,the most recent technologies of sound,light,electricity,multimedia.bionics and virtual exhibits were fully integrated into them so as to help visitors understand the meaning of geology while fully enjoying the experience.Second,the museum has taken one step closer to the world-class level. The design of the exhibits paid particular attention to the captions,multimedia texts,and audio guides. It is the first time that all texts and captions have been written in both Chinese and English.which greatly facilitates foreign visitors’ understanding and enjoyment of the displays. In addition,guides speaking both Chinese and English are available in the Museum. Third,the concept of accessibility for all people has been emphasized. All passageways throughout the entire Museum are free from any obstacles and are fully handicapped accessible. Wheel-chairs and baby-carts can go anywhere. Visitors may become immersed in the displays through various interactive experiences that are available throughout the exhibit halls. Facilities are available for visitors to listen to explanations and thereby obtain additional information.A11 these features show that much care has been given to the visitor experience. The Gallery of Minerals and Rocks and the Gallery of Gemstone won the“National Award for the Best Exhibition”in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
On June 1,2004,the Museum was reopened to the public for a trial,hoping to solicit additional comments and suggestions.
The Museum formally opened to the public on July 14,2004. Since then,two years’ operation has won high praise from all walks of life both at home and abroad. It is indeed “the best museum in China and renowned throughout the world”.Today,with high aspirations and the desire to continually strive for new heights.on its 90th anniversary,the museum looks forward to a very bright future.