On 18 August 2020, SEAMEO SPAFA had the pleasure of talking with four leading museum professionals in Asia, namely Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, during the SPAFA SESH entitled “Museum Move”. The theme was devised with the intention of having these museum professionals share the experiences that their museums have faced during the pandemic situation from January till now. The four specialists were:
- Mr Kenji Saotome, Curator at Suita City Museum, Japan; Board Member at International Committee for Regional Museums, International Council of Museums (ICOM);
- Datuk Kamarul Baharin bin A. Kasim, Director General, Department of Museums Malaysia;
- Mr Jeremy R. Barns, Director General, National Museum of the Philippines; and
- Ms Nitaya Kanokmongkol, Director of the Office of National Museums, Fine Arts Department, Thailand
Each of them gave a thorough picture of the pandemic situation from the day it started and how their museums have been dealing with their respective situations till now. Some countries are reopening their museums already, but with precautions to ensure safety. Some countries follow government guidelines, while the Suita City Museum follows the Japanese Association of Museums guidelines. Nevertheless, in the Philippines all museums are still closed as the country continues to tackle the pandemic, but they have devised ways and means to reach out to the public.
In the stories shared, we heard of the benefits of virtual museums in all the countries in order to ensure continuity in the museum’s public outreach, although we noted a general consensus among panelists that museums can better present knowledge to its audiences through a physical approach.
Most shared how they have taken care of their staff and workers in museums.
The talk also touched upon the topic of the role of museums in navigating the new changes in society. All agreed that museums are still platforms for education, and that this role in education provides new opportunities to convey messages on a variety of new happenings in society: climate change, and equality, among others. The diverse roles of museums would depend on real situations happening in each country because they may not be the same. Further on this matter, there were some mentions of ICOM’s (International Council of Museums) long debated new proposal for an up-to-date definition of the museum.
The SPAFA SESH “Museum Move” drew vibrant energy from all panelists, each of whom were eager to share and learn from each other, which is very useful for people working in museums around the world. They are happy to have this platform to discuss and share their experiences, and express their feelings towards the work they are all doing.
Date: 18 August 2020
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. (Bangkok time), 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. (Kuala Lumpur and Manila time)
Every once in a while, there are occurrences affecting our planet earth, whether natural or human-induced, and leaving indelible marks on our ways of life. Currently, there are a wide range of contemporary concerns, such as climate change, political issues, discourses on race, and recently the pandemic situation.
Museums, as institutions for society and the people living in it, are in constant search of how these phenomena change our society in order to reassess how to fulfill their role in serving the public. Thus the definition of the museum has to always be re-adjusted to strengthen its role in meeting every new situation.
During this pandemic period, museums have had to close their doors to the public. Some may have already reopened, with many adjustments having to be made to meet the safety requirements needed for their visitors. In these new circumstances, how have museum professionals (directors, curators and other practitioners) been re-thinking the museum’s new move in response to the contemporary context, whether physically or conceptually?
1) Ms Nitaya Kanokmongkol, Director of Office of National Museums, The Fine Arts Department, Thailand
2) Mr Jeremy R. Barns, Director General, National Museum of the Philippines
3) Datuk Kamarul Baharin bin A. Kasim, Director General, Department of Museums Malaysia
4) Mr Kenji Saotome, Curator at Suita City Museum, Japan; Board Member at International Committee for Regional Museums, International Council of Museums (ICOM); Board Member at The Museological Society of Japan and The Japan Society for Exhibition Studies
Moderator: Mrs Somlak Charoenpot, SEAMEO SPAFA Centre Director
[Discussion will be conducted in English]