Palace Museum embraces digitalization with help of technology firm

The Palace Museum in Beijing. Photo: Zhuang Ling

The Palace Museum in Beijing is connecting itself with the state-of-the-art technologies in an era when high technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing are widely applied to the preservation of cultural heritages.

Recently, the Palace Museum and the country's technology giant Tencent announced the establishment of a joint innovation laboratory at an international forum, where the participants talked about combining culture with the advanced technologies. The joint innovation laboratory will be used to explore the cutting-edge digital technologies that can be applied to the protection, research and display of the antiquities exhibited at the Palace Museum.

Established in 1925 and located in the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Palace Museum enshrines a great number of invaluable paintings, calligraphy works, ceramics and antiquities of the imperial collections.

The members of the joint innovation laboratory will come from Tencent's top technology teams of cloud computing, machine learning, image processing, voice recognition and artificial intelligence, and they will work out a full set of smart digital solutions for the Palace Museum, the company said.

"We need to use the Internet language and the digital language to redefine the functions of museums and integrate the resources of different museums across the country. With the help of digital technology standards, the Palace Museum can become a kind of lifestyle, which will integrate into the modern life and benefit the public," Feng Naien, deputy director at the Palace Museum, said at the international forum.

Tencent Vice President Cheng Wu hailed the cooperation with the Palace Museum as a technological way to break the cultural barriers and combine the traditional culture with the mass culture. Recently, Tencent has successfully developed the Tencent Super Resolution technology, which depends on visual recognition to help viewers appreciate the high-resolution images of items on display without downloading the original photos.

Establishing the joint innovation laboratory in collaboration with Tencent is not the first technological attempt by the Palace Museum, which appears to have made great efforts to keep pace with the technology-driven world.

In September, the Palace Museum was included into a mini-program on the WeChat platform, a very popular instant messaging app in China developed by Tencent, through which mobile phone owners would be offered a digitalized, all-around introduction to the exhibits displayed at the museum by taking pictures of them. The mini program, which is named "museum officer", has teamed up with 100 museums to provide the service.

Last year, the Palace Museum used the interactive virtual reality technology at one of its exhibitions for the first time to offer three-dimensional images of the ancient kilns, factories and other buildings in Jingdezhen in southern China, which were set up by the orders of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors to produce exquisite ceramics. Jingdezhen was dubbed the "porcelain capital" of China.

At the time, media reports said that the Palace Museum staff went to the site to collect data and create a computer-generated three-dimensional configuration of the area's former architecture so that visitors were offered a visual and audio "reconstruction" of how the site would have looked in ancient times with the help of the interactive virtual reality technology.

Also in 2016, the Palace Museum cooperated with Tencent to organize the "Next Idea" contest, which encouraged the talented young people to create emoji packages, cartoon images and electronic games based on the museum's iconic images of its collections, digital products as well as other traditional cultural contents.

This year, the Palace Museum has tried to expand its cultural influence to the beauty industry. It was reported that the Palace Museum would work with several luxury brands to launch the limited editions of lipsticks whose packaging design is derived from the fine artworks displayed at the museum.


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