Conference 2nd-3rd June 2022

The project will host an international conference at the University of Bristol on 2-3 June 2022 focused on private museums and private heritage in East and Southeast Asia.

We are hoping that travel restrictions may have eased by then and that as many of you as possible can join us. In the event that travel is impossible/unfeasible/unknown, we are proposing a blended approach with participation online.

The two-day AHRC conference will explore the underlying logic, rationale, and motivation for establishing private museums and heritage sites in Asia. It aims to interrogate notions of ‘private’ in an Asian context to explore how lineage and locality provide a vital foundation for the emergence of museums and heritage sites under the patronage of individuals, communities, entrepreneurs and corporations. A key question for debate is whether the private museum in Asia signals the emergence of a new museum?

The conference aims to examine heritage and museums in the context of popular media, exploring how new forms of critique, scrutiny, and participation through popular media, the internet and digital technologies challenge and shape prevailing understandings of originality, authenticity and ownership. It will explore how heritage discourse is attached to new technologies and mobilities and the types of claims and counter-claims made by stakeholders.

We envisage private museums and heritage sites in Asia as productive spaces, reproducing social relations as much as ritual ideas and cosmologies of value. We intend to question age-old understandings of the museum as repositories of the past; by thinking about how museums safeguard the future through their shrine-like evocation and potency. New forms of productivity emerge in the museum’s capacity to repair, to marry, to heal, and to remake. A key idea for debate is a concept of heritage wealth and what this means in contemporary Asia for those who seek access and control.

How can the remains of the past be activated to make better and more just futures, and what kind of aspirations, hope, and dignity does this transformation bring for communities? The conference explores this question through an analysis of the types of memory-work taking place at heritage sites and museums, exploring how the transformation and reworking of the past enacts forms of repair, erasure, and renewal. A key question for debate is: how is memory attached to heritage and what are the mechanisms for transformation?

For more information, contact Prof Graeme Were