History is a series of narratives through which we hope to explain what shapes our culture and heritage. A CUHK alumnus with a passion for history, Dr. Louis Ng is a seasoned museum professional and historian with over thirty years of experience in museum planning and management. Dedicated to preserving the past and the present for future generations, he became the inaugural Director of the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM), which opened in July 2022.
And the story begins
"The memories of my first visit to the Palace Museum in 1982, when I was in Year 1 at CUHK, are still vivid. I immediately fell in love with the culture of the Forbidden City and dreamt of being part of it one day." Little did he know that some thirty years later, his dream would come true when he became the Director of the HKPM.
Dr. Ng's story begins with the CUHK. There he transformed a lifelong passion for Chinese history and culture into a career focusing on arts & humanities research, eventually obtaining a BA, MPhil and PhD in history and publishing on Hong Kong history and cultural heritage management.
His time at university put him in contact with some of the greatest historians and scholars, through his position as chairman of the CUHK History Society, fellow classmates who have since, like him, gone on to advance the field of arts and history, and his beloved wife, whom he met in class.
Looking back, Dr. Ng considers his time at university to be an eye-opening experience that gave him the critical tools to examine the world around him. He credits CUHK with equipping him with vital life skills in communication, problem-solving, collaborative teamwork and enterprise, all of which prepared him for a career in the museum industry.
The CUHK culture, which is filled with care and harmony, has nurtured me to be humble, empathetic and helped me develop an inclusive mindset – all of which are valuable virtues and important qualities to have as a leader.
A passion to share
After graduating, Dr. Ng briefly taught history in secondary school before signing on to Hong Kong's nascent public museum service in 1988, and rose through the ranks to become a chief curator in 2002, after working in several curatorial and managerial positions at various museums. He was also the founding Director of the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence opened in 2000. After three decades of faithful service to the museum industry, he became the first Director of the HKPM in 2019.
This new cultural landmark of Hong Kong aspires to become one of the world’s leading museums committed to the study and appreciation of Chinese arts and culture, through advancing dialogue between the past and the present and among world civilisations, to reinforce Hong Kong’s positioning as an East-meets-West centre for cultural exchange between China and the rest of the world. At heart, history is the stories we tell about what was and what is, and museums help us understand those stories through exhibitions. As the Director of the HKPM, Dr. Ng and his team tell the heritage and art stories through thematic exhibitions and programmes, and values the experience and feelings at the museum, for visitors to explore the excellence of Chinese arts and culture.
Passion not only drives job satisfaction, but also helps us overcome obstacles. In addition to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the HKPM faces high expectations from the public, but Dr. Ng was up to the task. “With tremendous support from my team and the Palace Museum in Beijing, we rode out those challenges—from project initiation, design and construction to completion—and the museum opened its doors to the public on schedule, below budget and within five years. And this was all achieved under the pandemic in place”.
Since opening on 3 July this year, HKPM has welcomed more than 600,000 visitors in the first five months.
What Dr. Ng shares with HKPM is a passion to promote Chinese culture to young people and facilitate cultural, artistic and academic exchanges amongst youth of different regional and cultural backgrounds. "I always tell young people that Hong Kong is in no way a 'cultural desert', and that they should pursue their dreams with passion, dedication, and self-belief," says Dr. Ng. "We place a lot of emphasis on curating educational and engagement programmes for young people with an aim to promote creativity and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of Chinese arts and culture."
In the future, Dr. Ng will strengthen the museum's connection with the Mainland and with overseas museums and audiences, particularly in the nearby Greater Bay Area, where strategic partnerships with major museums will be established for collaboration and resources sharing for mutual benefits.