Gansu Provincial Museum, sitting on the bank of the Yellow River, is one of the earliest integrative museums in China. It was previously the Gansu Scientific Education Center founded in 1939.
In 1950, the center was renamed to Northwest People's Science Museum and later in 1956 renamed again to Gansu Provincial Museum.
Two years later, it moved into a new venue. In 1999, the Gansu provincial government invested 150 million yuan on the reorganization and expansion of the museum.
Covering a land area of 108 mu and a floor area of 28,500 sq m, the building after renovation hosts 18 exhibition areas and other facilities such as warehouses and labs. Boasting a classic and user-friendly design, the new building opened to the public on December 26, 2006, and has been offering free entry since March 2008.
Gansu Provincial Museum has a rich collection of cultural relics, fossils and specimens with distinguished features thanks to the abundant cultural relics and heritage in Gansu province. It houses a total of over 80,000 pieces or sets of valuable cultural relics and natural specimens, including 702 pieces or sets of first-class cultural relics (including 16 national treasures), 2,625 pieces or sets of second-class cultural relics, and 48,129 pieces or sets of third-class cultural relics.
Among a great regional collection ranging from ancient to modern times, the most distinct pieces held by Gansu Provincial Museum include painted pottery from the Neolithic Age, bamboo slips from the Han Dynasty, Silk Road documents and treasures of the Han and Tang dynasties, Buddhist artwork, and paleontological fossils. Bronze Galloping Horse from the Eastern Han Dynasty and the portrait bricks painted with courier figures unearthed from a tomb in Wei and Jin Dynasties have been recognized as a national tourism trademark and a post trademark. The museum now hosts five permanent exhibitions, namely Civilization Along the Silk Road Section in Gansu, Gansu Painted Pottery, Paleontological Fossils in Gansu, Gansu Buddhist Arts, and Red Gansu – To 1949, to demonstrate the profound history and culture in the province.
Since its inception, the museum has held nearly 300 exhibitions, attracting a large number of domestic and foreign visitors. Many pieces in its collection have been exhibited in the U.S., France, Italy, Japan, Croatia, Singapore, Hong Kong (China) and Taiwan (China), contributing to promoting the image of Gansu. Meanwhile, the museum has made full use of its resources in talents and facilities to promote cultural relic protection and research.
With the "Qualification for Repairing Movable Cultural Relics" granted by the Natural Cultural Heritage Administration, the museum is undertaking cultural relic repairs across municipal and prefecture museums in Gansu province and personnel training in this regard. In recent years, the three cultural relic protection projects undertaken by the museum have won the second and third prizes of National Science & Technology Progress Award, in addition to three national patents. The museum has recorded remarkable achievements in research areas including the paleontology and ancient humans, painted pottery, great walls culture and communication between China and the West, bamboo slips, Buddhist grottoes art, West Xia Dynasty characters and history, and ancient calligraphy art.
In 2007, its three permanent exhibitions, namely Civilization Along the Silk Road Section in Gansu, Gansu Painted Pottery, and Paleontological Fossils of Gansu, won the Selected Exhibition prize of the "7th Top 10 Museum Exhibitions (2005 - 2006) in China Award". In 2011, another permanent exhibition, Gansu Buddhist Arts, won the Selected Exhibition prize of the "9th Top 10 Museum Exhibitions (2009 - 2010) in China Award". In 2013, Red Gansu – To 1949 won the Excellent Exhibition prize of the "10th Top 10 Museum Exhibitions (2011 - 2012) in China Award".
Taking advantage of its location, Gansu Provincial Museum led the establishment of Museums Committee along the Silk Road under the China Museums Association in 2010. It held joint exhibitions with museums along the Silk Road, including Silk Road - Great Treasures of Northwest China, Maritime Silk Road, Grassland Silk Road, and Tea-horse Ancient Road. Moreover, it hosted national and international academic conferences including "International Seminar on Silk Road Cultures", "Paper Road - the 4th International Symposium on Paper Protection in East Asia", and the "Second International Symposium on Bamboo Slips in Gansu". The events produced significant influences in domestic and foreign museum circles. In 2012, Gansu Provincial Museum established a friendly partnership with the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, Japan, to enhance inter-museum exchanges in culture, preservation techniques and personnel, as well as seek mutual development of cultural sectors in both countries.
Gansu Provincial Museum has been recognized as a national patriotism education base and a national science education base and has won the honor of "Advanced Group of Patriotism Education Base in Gansu Province".
In 2012, the museum joined the elite team of national first-class museums. In 2013, a permanent department, Mobile Museum, was established by the museum to offer educational activities in communities, military stations, schools, minority ethnics regions and remote mountain areas across the province. Through this initiative, the museum plans to spread its social value by staging exhibitions at the doorstep of households. In 2015, Gansu Provincial Museum was awarded the honorary title of "Provincial Civilized Unit".