China will begin giving citizens free admission to public art museums and libraries in China beginning in 2012, according to China Daily. Free access to museums and memorial halls in China began in 2008. In the United States, we are seeing state and federal funding for arts, culture, and museums under fire due to budget restrictions and individuals who see many government expenses as unnecessary.
I am not suggesting that our government should be like China, but perhaps we can learn from them. In a recessionary time when the American public’s ability to experience and learn from cultural attractions has diminished due to unemployment and stagnant wages, the removal of some barriers to entry may be appropriate. Our country’s cultural heritage and the continuing education of our populace are at stake.
Thankfully, many United States museums offer free admission days due to their own generosity (but often corporate support). The federally-supported Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC is still free, but Federal budget cuts always threaten upkeep and operations. National and state parks have been frequently underfunded throughout the years as their infrastructure ages.
Perhaps China’s policy change is a wake-up call to reconsider our own priorities.