How to draw more visitors to museums?

Why, by spreading rumours of course. This, at least, was what the Indonesian experience was when museum directors found out that the reason for the jump in visitors to a hominids exhibition was because bus drivers were spreading a rumour on an exhibit of a snake’s head on a man’s body. The anecdote seems to highlight a cultural reason behind why Indonesians (and arguably, Malaysians) don’t visit their museums despite the richness of artefacts artefacts contained within. I must say that Singapore’s management plan for promoting museums is in contrast quite good – while many overseas friends and colleagues have pointed out to me that Singapore has a comparable lack of depth and content, the marketing and public engagement machinery has been quite successful in inserting the museum into part of the local recreational lifestyle rather than the common school excursion niche.

Houses of history need updating
Jakarta Post, 24 July 2009
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Wednesday Rojak #62 – The Digital Recreation edition

In this edition of rojak, we feature not one, but two digital recreations of ancient sites in Cambodia, along with other interesting things picked up from the web on the archaeology of Southeast Asia.
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Vietnamese rock art debuts in Sweden

The petroglyphs at Sapa will be featured in a special exhibition at the Vasterrbotten Museum in Sweden, to commemorate 40 years of Vietnam-Sweden relations.

Sapa ancient carved rock field to be introduced in Sweden
Vietnam Net Bridge, 28 July 2009
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Gapura Bajang Ratu

Gapura Bajang Ratu is one of the many structures that form part of the Majapahit ruins in Trowulan. I’m pretty sure ‘Gapura’ is a Javanised translation of the word Gopura, which refers to the entrance gateway to South Indian-style temples.

Bajang Ratu: A sight from the past
Jakarta Post, 24 July 2009
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Shipwreck treasure hunting in Indonesia

A feature on Klaus Keppler, who salvages shipwrecks in the seas of Indonesia. Unfortunately the article is more about how lucrative (or unlucrative) such ventures may be, rather than the archaeological value of the finds.

Cannons and china – treasure hunting in Indonesia
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, vis Monsters & Critics, 23 July 2009
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How accessible are heritage sites to locals?

It’s a sad irony when even the locals cannot afford the entrance fee to their own heritage sites – but that said, sites like these require revenue to maintain them and so it seems necessary to charge a fee. This story got me thinking about other sites in Southeast Asia that require fees to enter – A day-pass at Angkor is probably the most expensive, at USD20; at Borobudur the price for foreigners is USD10 and in Thailand entry to various sites cost between USD2-6. The entry to Hue is comparable at USD3 for foreigners. I don’t have a problem paying higher fees than locals, but I do wonder sometimes at these sites if the revenue goes to the maintenance of the site or to some higher-up’s pocket.

Hue Citadel visit is beyond means of many Vietnamese
Vietnam Net Bridge, 22 July 2009
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Stone gong unearthed in Vietnam

Another lithophone discovered in Vietnam. Although I wonder why they would ask an ethnomusicologist about the stone source for making the lithophone – wouldn’t a geologist be more appropriate?

Ancient musical instrument found in Dong Nai province
Voice of Vietnam News, 18 July 2009
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The ancient sanskrit inscription in a church

Every year, thousands of Catholic pilgrims in Malaysia travel to the town of Bukit Mertajam in the mainland side of Penang to send petitions and thanksgiving at the Church of St Anne for her feastday on July 26. Since I live in Penang, the feastday celebrations are a great opportunity to be one of the pilgrims, and also to pay a visit to a lesser-known archaeological site, right in the grounds of the Church of St Anne itself: The Cherok Tok Kun Inscription.

St Anne's Church and the Cherok Tok Kun inscription
St Anne's Church and the Cherok Tok Kun inscription

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Quang Ngai Museum devotes room to Sa Huynh culture

As part of the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Sa Huynh culture, the Quang Ngai Museum opens a new permanent exhibition showcasing over 400 artefacts.

Central museum opens room devoted to Sa Huynh culture
Thanh Nien News, 23 July 2009
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Indians and Aboriginal Australians share genetic link

Ok, not really news if you think about it – but good to have more corroborating evidence. This study (open access, too!) shows a distinct mDNA link between the aboriginal Australians and populations from the Indian subcontinent, which lends support to the idea that modern humans migrating out of Africa took a southernly route, hugging the coast, from India, through Southeast Asia and finally into Australia. Quite significantly, the divergence in the mDNA suggests that Australia was populated sometime around 50,000-60,000 years ago, which corresponds quite well to the conclusions derived from archaeology. This in turn implies that Southeast Asia was populated a little earlier, perhaps 70,000 years before present?

Uluru Sunset 2002
photo credit: Kiwi Flickr

Reconstructing Indian-Australian phylogenetic link
BioMed Central, 22 July 2009
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