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Heritage & Conservation Events

Celebrating Women Working in Southeast Asian Cultural Heritage: Challenges & Opportunities

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Date: 30 March 2023

Time: 3 to 5 p.m. (Bangkok time)


Online Platform: Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/seameo.spafa/ and on *Zoom (*For Zoom access: https://bit.ly/SPAFA-SESH-Register-Women-in-SEAsian-Cultural-Heritage or scan the QR code below).

In celebration of International Women’s Day, which falls annually on 8 March, SEAMEO SPAFA speaks with three remarkable women who have devoted their careers to Southeast Asian cultural heritage. Hear their experiences, from challenges and opportunities.

Speakers and Synopsis:

Speaker 1: Dr. Paritta Chalermpow Koanantakool (Intangible Cultural Heritage Expert)

Dr. Paritta taught anthropology at Thammasat University from 1981-2002.  Her research interests included performing art and artists, community-based museums, and heritage studies. From 2002 to 2011 she was Director of the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre where she spearheaded a research and capacity-building programme engaging with community-based museums all over Thailand.  Dr. Paritta also initiated the  SAC (Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre) projects dealing with the transmission and documentation of cultural heritage.  Since 2012 she has been facilitating UNESCO workshops on intangible cultural heritage in many countries in Asia and the Pacific region.  She is currently enjoying a quiet retirement with her cat and her painting.

A Woman Anthropologist in Two Field Sites

The event commemorating International Women’s Day steers me to reflect on my fieldwork experience in Thailand where I worked as an anthropologist.  I will compare two of my studies, some thirty years apart, of two folk performing genres, namely, the shadow puppet theatre in the south, and the folk dance-drama in the central region.  In both cases, being a woman and an anthropologist presented many challenges, but it also made me appreciate the strength and limitations of women in both communities.  Gender, together with age, and social position, are crucial in shaping my ethnographic understanding of the performing genres.

Speaker 2: Dr. Charlotte Galloway (Honorary Associate Professor, Australian National University)

Dr Charlotte Galloway has spent over 25 years teaching, researching and working in the cultural heritage field, with a special focus on Myanmar. From field research and collection documentation to being appointed a UNESCO expert for Bagan’s successful world heritage listing, Charlotte’s career has relied on building long-term relationships to enable successful collaborative outcomes. Dr. Galloway is an Honorary Associate Professor at the Australian National University and was recently awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for her contribution to education, and history.

 A misfit art historian

 Through my career researching in Southeast Asia, being an art historian who specialises in historical and pre-historical time periods has left many a little baffled, the discipline having little to do with archaeology or heritage in this setting. As a woman with a background in museums and teaching I had to carve out a place within a different paradigm, and it was not always easy. I share my experiences and thoughts on ‘women’s work’ in the cultural sphere, and where I see the need for better gender equity, and most importantly, why.

Speaker 3: Dr Heidi Tan (Lecturer in Curating and Museology, School of Arts, SOAS University of London)

Dr. Heidi Tan was responsible for developing collections and curating new exhibitions at a time of exponential growth in Singapore’s museums (the mid-90s onwards). Her curatorial career spanned almost two decades at the Asian Civilizations Museum (ACM), where she progressed from assistant curator for Chinese and Southeast Asian collections to principal curator and latterly deputy director of the curatorial department. New initiatives included conducting regional fieldwork and photo documentation that contributed to multimedia experiences for audiences. Perhaps most rewarding was working with a diverse team that included conservators, educators, docents, designers, exhibition technicians, and managers. And collaborating with local communities whose knowledge and expertise both enriched their practice as museum professionals, as well as the public’s engagement with the museum.

In Search of the Inclusive Museum

On International Women’s Day (IWD) ask yourself what this means for you – is it a celebration or an ongoing journey towards positive life changes? Do words like ‘equity’ and ‘equality’, or ‘gender pay gap’ have any relevance to your work and daily life? Then ask yourself how any of this relates to your experience of museums and the kinds of opportunities for learning that they offer. This is the starting point for musing on my own experiences as a museum curator and the search for making museums more inclusive. Join me with a cup of tea in this moment of reflection with like-minded friends.

Guest Speakers: Dr. Paritta Chalermpow KoanantakoolDr. Charlotte Galloway; and Dr. Heidi Tan.

Moderator: Ohnmar Myo, SEAMEO SPAFA Senior Researcher

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