Unauthorized commentary services will be banned at the National Museum of China, and all tour guides wishing to offer this service must apply in advance, the museum said in a notice issued on Sunday.
The Beijing-based museum said the new rules, expected to be put in effect on July 16, is intended to put guided tours in order. Institutes or enterprises that have engaged in social education for at least three years can apply for guided tours including their own commentary services, and they must submit details of the tour at least five days in advance.
Guides on approved tours must not speak loudly in exhibition halls, nor should they stay in front of one exhibit for too long. The museum itself provides guided tours by docents and electronically, and volunteers recruited by the museum also give free tours.
In recent years, especially during summer and winter vacations, study tours by young students and parents have often crowded popular museums, and this prompted many small travel agencies to offer their own tours, said Li Xiang, a scholar in museum education who works for the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Li told Beijing News Radio although guides and volunteers provided by the museum may suffice for individual visitors, they may not be enough for groups due to inflexible scheduling. In addition, some people prefer the old-fashioned way of having a real person explain the historical and cultural value of relics.
But commentaries given by outside tour guides often provide information that is inaccurate, twisted, or even outright wrong just to be sensational, he said, adding the new rules will incentivize such tours to provide factual knowledge.
The new rules have raised concerns about how they can be implemented, as museum workers in exhibition halls are already busy stopping flash photography and children from running around during peak periods. In addition, it's hard to find a clear line between normal discussions among visitors and professional commentary.
An unnamed staff member told China News Service they judge the situation based on whether tour group members are equipped with uniform microphones and headphones, and the museum will release details on how the rules will be carried out.
The rules issued by the National Museum are not the country's first. Guangdong Museum, for example, rolled out a similar provisional rule in December 2021 disallowing unregistered guided tours. But the rule was not implemented strictly.
Zhu Xiaoqiu, deputy director of the museum, told Guangzhou Daily they plan to follow the National Museum's lead and develop detailed measures on implementing the rule.