Established in 1420, the Forbidden City has been around for 600 years. In 1925, the Palace Museum was founded based on the Forbidden City. Now the Palace Museum is one of the most prestigious museums in China because of its abundant collections.
Rather than keeping all these collections in the museum and being snubbed by modern civilization, the Palace Museum has taken many innovative actions to let the collections fit in people’s daily lives.
“The best way to protect our relics is to keep them alive,” said Dr. Shan Jixiang, the former director of the Palace Museum.
Digital Palace Museum
Since 2019, the Palace Museum has jointly developed a series of digital products with Tencent and other technology companies to build a digital Palace Museum. The products include virtual tours, digital collection storage, Digital Shelf, a famous paintings gallery and more. During a webinar held in July, the director of the museum Dr. Wang Xudong said the Palace Museum plans to digitize 80,000 collections each year to enrich the digital collection storage. The Palace Museum official WeChat mini program was launched earlier this month, offering all the digital resources above.
The Palace Museum offers virtual reality tours where users can not only see the inner museum but even areas currently closed because of repair or other reasons.
Digital Shelf has collected more than 600 pieces of antiques. The museum “clones” these collections in 3D digital versions, which have the same size, color and even texture. The geometrical difference between the 3D model and the real collection is less than 200μm. Users can turn collections to any side or zoom in to see details on the website as well as the mini program.
Famous Paintings Gallery
The Palace Museum has digitized more than 300 pieces of famous paintings paired with descriptions online. Users can take notes on the side of the painting and zoom in to get details in high definition. For some very valuable works like Along the River During the Qingming Festival, there are also annotations of the painting to explain the humanistic values behind it along with the general descriptions.
Besides digital technologies, the Palace Museum has also focused its efforts on the cultural industry. Combining tradition and trendy customs, the museum has released multiple innovative cultural products. For example, a TV show called National Treasure and a documentary named Masters in Forbidden City have both been widely loved by society. Besides, the museum has developed multiple apps and online games related to its collections or imperial life. In 2019, the Palace Museum and Chinese tech company jointly launched a mobile game based on a famous painting, A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains.
The Palace Museum’s online store debuted in 2008. Two years later, it opened its first store on Tmall, China’s biggest e-commerce platform owned by Alibaba. Now, the Palace Museum has 4 online stores on different platforms and its Tmall store has more than 6.8 million followers. The store sells various products ranging from food to clothing, with products costing anywhere from 10 to thousands of yuan. In 2018, for the very first time, the Palace Museum launched 8 makeup products, including lipsticks, eye shadow plates, blushes and highlights.
In 2019, the museum held the Celebrating the Spring Festival in the Forbidden City exhibition during the Chinese New Year, to show the imperial customs and traditions of celebrating the new year hundreds of years ago. During the Lantern Festival last year, the Palace Museum held a light show, which was the first time the museum opened to the public at night.
After being closed for more than 70 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Palace Museum conducted three live streams during the Qingming Festival in April, which gave visual tours of the Forbidden City during the two day holiday. The live streams were presented on platforms including Xinhuanet, People’s Daily, Douyin, and Tencent News. On Douyin, the first live stream attracted more than 100 million viewers.
Through its many innovations, the Forbidden City has made history more youthful and stimulated the interest of the next generation in traditional culture and civilizations. Just like what Dr. Shan once said, “We want to hand over a magnificent Forbidden City to the next 600 years.”