Heritage & Conservation

2nd Museums Forum: Southeast Asian Museums and the Challenges of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC)

21 November 2014
Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta, Indonesia


According to the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint of 2007, the primary goal of the ASCC is to contribute to the formation of an ASEAN Community that is people-centred and socially responsible with a view to achieving enduring solidarity and unity among the nations and peoples of ASEAN by forging a common identity and building a caring and sharing society by the year 2015. As non-profit organizations that focus on sustainable education for all, Southeast Asian museums and museum professionals should be alert and prepared for this important social change. To contribute to the building of the ASEAN community and becoming an active agent of change for a more harmonious Southeast Asia is a challenge for all museums.
At the same time, it must be recognized that museums in Southeast Asia have their roots in European practices and theories. Formal training programmes in the field of museology have been developed in a number of universities with the assistance of Western institutions. One of these universities, Universitas Gadjah Mada in Indonesia, is reflecting on the state of museums in Indonesia and Asia in general, and is rethinking museological practices for the region by convening an international museum conference entitled “Museum of our Own: In Search of Local Museology for Asia” on 18-20 November 2014 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The conference will cover five main topics:
1. Writing Museum in Southeast Asia
2. The West and the Rest, the Development of the Theory of Museology
3. Museum and Heritage
4. Conservation
5. Museology Education in Southeast Asia
Since this conference covers many aspects of museum management, on 21 November 2014, one day after the end of the aforementioned international museums conference, SEAMEO SPAFA is organizing the “Second Museums Forum on Southeast Asian Museums and the Challenges of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC)” as a continuation of the previous SEAMEO SPAFA Museums Forum held in January 2013 and as a platform to discuss future collaborative steps.

Background Information

Under the concept of ‘unity based on diversity of Southeast Asia’, museums in Southeast Asia should be able to present their cultural identity and indigenous wisdom as well as the collective identity of Southeast Asia. It would be encouraging to see Southeast Asian museums joining hands in the conservation and revival of ASEAN cultural heritage, sharing their common work experiences and best practices, and enhancing their capacity in protecting cultural resources, display designs and interaction with youth and the public.
A museum forum, “Southeast Asian Museums and the Challenges of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC)”, was previously held on 14-15 January 2013 in Bangkok Thailand, in collaboration with the Museum Association of Thailand, the Research Institute of Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University and the Thai Human Imagery Museum, with the objectives of raising the issue of the roles of Southeast Asian museums in the development of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, promoting dialogue and exploring areas of collaboration between museums in the Southeast Asian region, and creating international networks of museums related to the cultural heritage and identity of Southeast Asia. It was attended by 20 directors and representatives from national museums, non-governmental museums, specialized museums, and by museum specialists.
To continue the discussions on modes of collaboration and direction, to reflect on traditions, past practices and international museology, Universitas Gadjah Mada’s international museum conference on “Museum of our Own: In Search of Local Museology for Asia” to be held on 18-20 November 2014 could bring fresh ideas and stimulate innovative solutions to enable Southeast Asian museums to effectively meet the challenges of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).


1. To rethink the roles of Southeast Asian museums in the context of ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
2. To promote dialogues and explore areas of collaboration between museums in the Southeast Asian region.
3. To explore innovative ways to enhance capacity building opportunities for Southeast Asian museums.
4. To create international networks of museums related to the cultural heritage and identity of Southeast Asia.


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  • Concrete plans for collaborative action
  • Establishment of a core group of a ‘coalition of the willing’ to move forward the plans for collaborative actions.

Post-Activity Report

Accomplishments and Challenges 2013/2014
– Brunei Museums Department delivered a presentation on activities and issues faced in Brunei museums
– National Museum of the Philippines unveiled plans for the upcoming Museum of National History
– Lao National Museum delivered a presentation on activities and issues faced within its institution, highlighting the lack of funding, building maintenance, museum/curating education. Plans were unveiled to move the museum to a new building

Discussion on the Role of Museums
– The Museum should show what each country has to other ASEAN countries.
– The Museum has a role to facilitate the community towards discussing a topic.
– Museum leadership plays an important to promote the social value of the Museum.
– There needs to be a balance between museum leadership and the Museum.
– The story of the artefact in the Museum should be told to visitors both tourists and locals. However, priority should be given to the local visitor.
– The Museum should learn how to cooperate with other agencies on managing stakeholders.
– The Museum should be free to tell a story using different styles catering to their target audience.
– The Museum should consider the use of higher technologies, such as digital media, sound exhibition, theatre museum, etc.
– The Museum should consider establishing a community museum where people show their own objects that remain from their ancestors, so that the Museum can act as a medium between stakeholders and state organizations.
– The Museum should seek for alternative ways of museum development using different models.

Afternoon Session
Various Components of Museum Work
– In regards to developing regional collaboration, something should be developed in order for all to participate without much difficulty.
– Create a website that carries a contact list of museums in ASEAN to allow public access to museums in one website (supranational website)
– Create cooperation between ASEAN’s museums
– To help mutual understanding of the peoples of ASEAN
– To make the public at large aware of ASEAN’s cultural diversity
– To promote the Museum
– To provide information about ASEAN Arts and History to its peoples and the global community
– Cooperation between museums through which museums are the target group would require a more academic approach. It would also require an interface for museum curators to communicate with each other.
– Awareness rising: who is our target audience? The public at large, the peoples of ASEAN, or a specific group (i.e. students)
– VCM= Virtual Collection of Asian Masterpieces as an example
– The artefact and its picture should be accompanied by a caption
– Set up a format for database and research functions
– Make VDOs or presentations available
– Add ASEAN languages on the website in addition to English
– Necessity to set up a task force to set up and manage the website
– Money should be provided by participating museums, ASEAN, or by independent sponsors depending on the vision and mission of the website collaboration.
– Cooperate with the VCM and set up parallel website using VCM format. It can be an independent website that follows the VCM format.
– Supranational website: there are many museum websites and national websites but only few supranational websites, such the Google Art Project. It is not under an ASEAN umbrella. The other site is Virtual Collection of Asian Masterpieces (VCM), which combines Asian museums and European museums. The contribution comes directly from participating museums with greatly quality and quantity of information. The other one is Discover Art, which contains images and information.
– Marketing the website is another important work after setting up the website.
– The problem of a website model like VCM is that it is costly. To sustain it, we should focus first on developing a regional project, for instance, ceramics of ASEAN. It would be nice to virtually verify our collection.
– There should be a web-master to take care of this website.
– How to link the information from the museum to the website? Focusing on a same theme, for example, education, each country should have the same format, even the spelling of word. As a starting point, we should have the same format and standard.
– Google Art was designed for fine arts collections. There was difficulty in providing the data of each collection into the Google Art format. Copyright issue is another concern. Some VDOs posted on the website couldn’t be viewed by public until now.
– Google Art is more of a commercial entity, but it less costly than others.
– For the promotion, we have to consider management costs spanning over at least 2-5 years.
– To promote the website, we should have our photo (image) appear among the top ten on the Google search page in order to attract people to visit website.
What type of framework can bring these things together?
– Regional research project for textile preservation project: it is a continuous project on textile conservation dealing with traditional methods in preserving textiles. Preservation methods found through a literature review related court customs showed that herbs, flowers and coconut juice were used to take care of textiles in the past.
– Organize a workshop and ask participants to share and demonstrate how to preserve textiles using their traditional methods.
– Encourage people from ASEAN, especially people from the 1st workshop, to conduct research in their country.
– Suggestion to develop a thematic approach by creating thematic website emphasizing local-based approaches.
Museum Management
– Vary aspects of museum management start with the collection. For the method, there are two types: analogue (cataloguing an artefact manually) and digital (Excel or other programme). However, we have to think about training experts in digitalizing the collections.
– Space, light and room, and environment are important aspects to consider.
– Communicating with the outside world: raising awareness with schools, departments of education, etc.
– Supporting the Museum as a centre for lifelong learning so it can be visited by children, adults and seniors.
– Fundraising using various means, i.e. renting out the museum’s building for evening events or when the museum is closed to the general public.
– Network with other organizations to organize seminar or workshop

Museums and ASEAN
– We first proposed to have a Southeast Asian Museum Association. However, there is a problem with legal instruments in each country, so it should be a Southeast Asian Museum Network.
– We should start with one regional website project, like an ASEAN Museums Exhibition, with a specific focus, such as ASEAN ceramics.
– Collaboration should go ahead. However we should think about implementation. How can we assure that our network can invite private museums to join?

What are the urgent issues faced with museums in ASEAN?
– Interpretation of objects: all objects should be interpreted in a contemporary way, which is easy to understand.
– Develop and share a guidelines manual/document of Best Practices in Museum Management
– Share information on a object that originates from another ASEAN country with a museum in the country where the object is from to get the correct information and knowledge
– Guidelines to Museum Disaster Management should also be developed
– Conservation methods in term of storage
– Seek information from the Europe storage systems and compare with the systems developed in ASEAN museums.
– Appropriate technology and situation are not always better than physical monitoring. Qualified human resource is thus an essential part of running a museum.
– Standard of issues in museum management
– A standard for documentation should be developed to help manage collections.
– A database standard should also be developed.

Assigned Commissions
– Commission on developing Guidelines/Agreement in establishing a network of ASEAN Museums: Sarawak Museum (Mr. Hans van de Bunte) and the National Museum of the Philippines (Dr. Ana Maria Theresa P. Labrador)
– Commission on Collection Management: QSMT (Ms. Parichat Saengsirikulchai), Museum Kain Bali (Ms. Annissa Gultom), Vietnamese Women’s Museum (Dr. Le Thi Thuy Hoan)
– Commission on Database Development: National Museum of Cambodia (Mr. Kong Vireak) and/or Vietnamese Women’s Museum (Dr. Le Thi Thuy Hoan)
– Commission on the development of a website of ASEAN Ceramics: Office of National Museums Thailand (Mr. Sahabhum Bhumittherat, Dr. Amara Srisuchat), Brunei Museums Department (Ms. Hajah Fatimah bin Aji, Ms. Mariani binti Abu Bakar), National Museum of Cambodia (Mr. Kong Vireak)
– Commission on the regional research project related to traditional methods in textile preservation: SEAMEO SPAFA and QSMT (invitation documents to participate in this project will be sent to respective institutions in due course)
– Commission on Museum Interpretation: National Discovery Museum Institute, Vietnamese Women’s Museum and Brunei Museums Department
– Follow up on activities: SEAMEO SPAFA


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