SINGAPORE - If Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong had his way, national museums here would be where Singaporeans choose to spend their weekends.
And he has made some headway in this.
Since his ministry scrapped museum admission fees for Singaporeans and permanent residents on May 18, visitorship at six state-run museums and heritage institutions has jumped by 22 per cent. More than 978,000 people have visited these institutions, including the National Museum of Singapore and the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, from June to August, compared to about 798,000 visitors for the same period last year.
Mr Wong, 40, says: "It's far better than I expected so I'm very encouraged by that."
He was interviewed by Life! and Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao on the cusp of his ministry's first anniversary. The ministry was formed in November last year following a restructuring of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.
Before entering politics in 2011, Mr Wong was a top civil servant and chief executive of the Energy Market Authority.
He states candidly, however, that "free is only the first step" - museum visitorship gains cannot be sustained on free entry alone.
"If the experience at the museum is not a positive one, then you make it free, they come once, but they may not come again," he says.