VMFA recently received special permission from the Palace Museum to extend the run of Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures of the Palace Museum, Beijing through January 19. Forbidden City has had a huge impact on the community—since before it even opened—and now the impact of this groundbreaking collaboration between VMFA and the Palace Museum will continue for an additional eight days, but we expect the indirect impact will endure for years to come.
Beyond the Walls: Free Interactive, Family Exhibition
It all started with Beyond the Walls. This interactive exhibition, which provides a glimpse into the home of an 18th century, merchant-class Chinese family was designed to complement both Forbidden City and VMFA’s East Asian collection.
Opening six weeks before Forbidden City, Beyond the Walls certainly whet the community’s appetite for the special exhibition, but throughout the run, it has continued to draw impressive crowds of children and adults, with 50,000 visitors enjoying Beyond the Walls to date. The exhibition, which will remain open until June 30, is accompanied by an interactive website and mobile app, allowing families to participate in its activities beyond the walls of the museum.
On September 22, still before the exhibition even opened, the impact of Forbidden City began to be felt in monetary terms. VMFA launching its premier crowdfunding initiative, tying it to the upcoming exhibition with each giving level represented by an architectural element (including temples, gardens, and teahouses) of a miniature, 3D Forbidden City.
In the first days of the campaign, prominent Virginia business owners Frank Qiu and Ting Xu of Evergreen Enterprises gave the campaign a huge boost by offering a dollar-for-dollar match up to $25,000. The result: VMFA surpassed its goal, not once but twice. During the 26-day campaign, and with an initial goal of $40,000, the museum raised $61,225 to benefit its exhibition fund.
The byproduct of this campaign is a scale model of the Forbidden City, which has been built, building by building, in the Atrium.
Forbidden City also saw the production of VMFA’s first-ever web-based audio tour for a special exhibition. Created by VMFA, the free audio tour has added layers of depth to the exhibition, whether visitors are on their mobile devices in the galleries or their computers at home.
People across the Central Virginia area have watched a Qing Dynasty warrior again and again ride across the Manchester Bridge— and their TV and computer screens—into the River City. This compelling spot has given Forbidden City, which was a Washington Post’s 2014 Critics’ Pick, an even larger presence in the community. The ceremonial armor, which was designed and produced by Spike Communications with the curator’s direction, is displayed in VMFA’s Atrium so visitors can see it up close and even touch it.
ChinaFest: Free Family Event
Forbidden City has even had a significant effect on ChinaFest, a VMFA event that has been popular in the community for years. Attendance at this year’s event reached 4,600 as compared to 2,500 to 3,200 in previous years. Likewise, the community’s support of ChinaFest more than doubled the number of visitors to Forbidden City compared to an average Saturday.
The number of visitors at the event was indeed impressive but so was the diversity of those visitors. According to Marketing and Communication Director, Bob Tarren, “We have black and white, old and young, city and suburban, Asian and non-Asian, empty nesters and families with kids. It’s the museum as melting pot.”
Forbidden City is leaving its mark on the community in countless ways. Ten days remain to experience the impact for yourself!