Lack of budget threatens existence of Philippine treasures in National Museum

(SPOT.ph) The National Museum’s small annual conservation budget has compelled the museum to shut down their air-conditioning on weekends and expose the artworks and artifacts to fungus, reports the AFP in a Philippine Daily Inquirer article.

 

The museum, which houses half a million local archeological items, allots  $23,000 (less than a million pesos) for preserving and restoring the museum’s art collection. "(The items) are in danger, yes, they are prone to deterioration, robbery, vandalism," said National Museum Chief Conservator Orlando Abinion.

 

Abinion has worked for the museum for 10 years, and one of his biggest achievements includes preserving Juan Luna's "Spoliarium." Fixing the museum won’t come cheap, however. German conservationist Monika Schneider-Gast, who worked on preserving frayed and moldy copies of Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, said the library needed rewiring and the air-conditioning had to be changed.

 

Anne Rosette Crelencia, chief of the rare books and manuscripts section, said they met with the Budget secretary to ask for funds to archive 400,000 pages recording the Philippine revolution against the Spanish. However, she also said that she understood given the economic setbacks the country is currently facing, putting up a library may not be the top priority.

 

According to the report, apart from logistical issues, robbery is also a problem. Crelencia revealed that parts of the museum’s collection were stolen years ago by alleged scholars who took and sold the works to private collectors. Also, 55 of the country's archaeological sites are under the threat of being looted. "Bounty hunters at times beat us to the wrecks," Abinion said. As an example, he cited the San Diego, a Spanish galleon that sunk in a 1600 battle and discovered in Manila waters in 1991. The ship was looted while the museum was waiting for the government to approve the site’s preservation.

 

For more on this story, log on to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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