Museums

Museums are institutions that store and exhibit objects of cultural, scientific or artistic value. When it comes to archaeology in Southeast Asia, museums are often national or state-owned institutions that hold the archaeological collections of the country. However, due to the effects of colonialism and also looting, many archaeological treasures from the region are sometimes held outside of the country.

To cite this page: Tan, Noel Hidalgo (2021, Updated 30 October 2022) Museums. Southeast Asian Archaeology. Available at: https://www.southeastasianarchaeology.com/museums/
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Overview
Overview
Recommended Books and Readings
Recommended Books
Most Popular Posts
Most Popular Posts
News Archive
News Archive
Map
Map
Links to other websites
Links to other websites
Online Lecture Library
A searchable collection on publicly-available lectures
Virtual Archaeology
Archaeological sites and museums you can visit online
Archaeological Projects in Southeast Asia
A list of past and present archaeological project websites
Journals and Scholarly Research
Scholarly research and a list of Southeast Asian archaeology journals
Tools and Software
Field work equipment and digital tool recommendations, with many available for free.
Job postings, scholarships and funding opportunities
Job postings, scholarships and funding opportunities

Overview

A museum is typically a building that seeks to collect, preserve, study, and exhibit artworks and natural objects as specimens. The term also denotes the institution within which the collection is housed. Museums typically function as research centres for their collections on concepts such as evolution and natural selection.

Within the museums in Southeast Asia, particularly in the national museums, one can find archaeological and historical artefacts, artworks, and natural objects. This page deals specifically with museums holding archaeological collections from Southeast Asia. Within the region, many of these museums are governmental organizations such as national or state museums, although few private museums exist. In some cases museums were created by public organizations but operate independently as private entities. There are also many non-profit educational and research institutions with archaeological collections in the region. 

It is important to note that many spectacular and even important archaeological artefacts are kept in museums outside of Southeast Asia. These pieces were often taken out of their home country due to colonisation, while some have been acquired in more recent times. In more recent years, countries like Cambodia have been asserting ownership over pieces found in museums overseas, sometimes with proof of looting, and have become successful in repatriating them.

At other times, museums have also been found complicit in acquiring artefacts with poor provenance records, which may often hide the fact that they have been stolen or looted. The Pandora Papers published in 2021 showed how looted art was sold using offshore accounts, making their way to museums around the world. There is an ongoing debate about what it means to decolonise museums, the lack of provenance in many of these pieces, the ethics of keeping and displaying potentially stolen items, and the repatriation of artefacts to their places of origin. 

Museums in Southeast Asia also face other challenges, such as the lack of adequate funding, political turmoil, war, lack of space, and lack of protection from natural disasters. However, the region is also rich in archaeological and historical artefacts that are an integral part of its history. Museums in this region can also face issues of having to justify the need to collect and display antiquities within their nationally-driven agendas. Many museums in Southeast Asia were created because a country’s leaders wanted to showcase their country’s history or their own legacy on a national scale. Visitorship is also another challenge facing museums, as museums combat the stereotype of being boring and irrelevant, or also where funding is also tied to the number of visitors. Many museums are responding to the changing tastes of visitors by curating more frequent exhibitions, or using technology to augment the visitor experience.

In 2022, the International Council of Museums approved a new definition of museum: “A museum is a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing.”

Recommended Books

These are books relevant to the Southeast Asian museums and museology, with a focus on archaeology. Some of these links are affiliate links and I may receive a commission if you click on them and make a purchase. For other sources of reliable academic information, you should also check out the books page for latest releases and the occassional free book, as well as the journals page for the latest scientific research.

Last update on 2023-01-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Popular Posts

These links are dynamically generated and are based on the most viewed posts in the last 30 days.

Museum News Archive

News reports and information about museums and museums studies related to Southeast Asian and cultural heritage. The news reports indexed below usually link to external sites that were active at the time of posting; sometimes websites may be temporarily down or may have reorganised their underlying architecture or have even closed down – in these cases the links may not be available. Most of the news articles archived are in English, although when I am made aware of stories in this and other languages I try to index them.

Map

Links to Museum Websites

These are links to external sites and unless stated, I have no connection with the organisations or entities in these links or control over their content. They are sorted alphabetically, but you should also explore the Resources page which have links sorted by themes. If you have a link to suggest, please get in touch!

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