ASEMUS Executive Committee Meeting, Dublin, 2013

Executive Committee Meeting Dublin 2013

The 17th Meeting of the ASEMUS Executive Committee was held at the Chester Beatty Library (Dublin, Ireland) on 31 October 2013. The Executive Committee considered ongoing projects as well as future opportunities and events, including the General Conference to be held in Vienna in 2014. The full list of members of the Executive Committee can be found here.


Minutes of the 17th ASEMUS Executive Committee Meeting



1. Kim Youngna, Director-General, National Museum of Korea, Seoul (Chair)

2. Fionnuala Croke, Director, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (Vice-Chair)

3. Stijn Schoonderwoerd, Director, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

4. Sanne Houby-Nielsen, Directot, National Museums of World Culture, Sweden

5. Alan Chong, Director, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

6. Toshio Yamanashi, Director-General, National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan

7. Zhou Yanqun, Chief of Cultural Exchange Office, Shanghai Museum, Peoples’ Republic of China

8. Steven Engelsman, Director, Weltmuseum Wien, Austria

9. Jani Kuhnt-Saptodewo, Head of East Asian Collection, Weltmuseum Wien, Austria

10. Julien Rousseau, Curator, Musée du quai Branly

11. Kim Jongsok, Curator, International Relations and PR Division, National Museum of Korea, Seoul

12. Laura Muldowney, Researcher, Chester Beatty Library

13. Sabina Santarossa, Director of Cultural Department, Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)

14. Valentina Riccardi, Project Manager, Culture Department, Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)

15. Heidi Tan, Principal Curator, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore (Secretariat, ASEMUS)


Absent with apologies:

Michael Willis, Chen Xiejun, Jeremy Barns, Stephane Martin, Christine Stelzig



1. The meeting’s agenda was approved and adopted.


2. ExCo meeting 2012 minutes were circulated and taken as read.


3. Introduction

Dr. Kim thanked the Chester Beatty Library for hosting the meeting and thanked all for participating in the General Conference in Korea in 2012. She also thanked ASEF for providing travel grants for selected attendees. The conference saw 400 participants attend the 3-day event, comprising more than 40 speakers from 37 countries.

Dr. Kim also thanked ASEMUS for the honour of serving as Chair – her term of service will conclude at the GC 2014. She noted that a key item in the agenda was the election of a new Chair and Vice Chair.


4. Project reports

4.1 Museum Education Exchange Project

Jenny Siung reported that this project which started in 2005/6 is managed by the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore and the Chester Beatty Library (CBL), Dublin. To date a total of 81 European and Asian museums have been contacted by these two institutions, and the call-out for participating institutions was aided by the mailing list of some 2,000 addressees compiled by the editor of the ASEMUS website.

The deadline for grant applications in 2014 has passed however the challenge now is to establish which of the interested museums would like to partner each other in an exchange.

Jenny reported that the exchange between CBL and the Islamic Art Museum (IAM) in Kuala Lumpur in 2006 was a fruitful one. This allowed her to observe the types of education programmes developed for Malaysian audiences, whilst her counterparts were given hands-on education experience at the CBL. The project allows for a one-to-one exchange, although in this case the IAM funded the participation of an additional educator.

She also presented a short video interview to promote the project on the ASEMUS website.


4.2 Virtual Collection of Asian Masterpieces (VCM) Project Report

Manus Brinkman reported that the independence of the VCM established by the trustees, has led to some contacts being made with US museums. However he reiterated that the close collaboration with Asian museums remains the status quo.

Mr Brinkman reported that the VCM website visitorship had begun to decline in January 2013 after a steady period of growth. One of the main reasons for this is thought to be the re-shuffling of the site on Google’s list, following the creation of a new web address. In May 2013, the demographics also changed drastically. Statistics show that there was an abrupt decrease in American (USA) visitors, whilst there was a significant increase in Korean visitors.

Latest figures however, show that visitorship is about level with 2012 and growing. There is also noticeable activity on the site notably with Southeast Asian visitors. Philippines users for example, have visited both museums in Vienna as well as the Philippines.

The Board then discussed more broadly the distinctions between ASEMUS and VCM, how the former encourages cooperation by bringing people together, whilst the latter presents museums online. There were questions about how VCM might take a more targeted approach with a focus on the needs of the immediate network users, compared to big ventures such as Google Cultural Institute, which caters to a much wider audience. Manus suggested that under the framework of cooperation, VCM could give more visibility to projects by introducing a prize and presenting the winning project.

Important points that came out of the discussion were, to think of cooperation as a means to an end; that end being shared ideas and bodies of work around certain topics, to avoid duplication of roles of ASEMUS and VCM, to be inclusive and introduce both big, small, poor and rich museums and to take into account their varying needs and how these might differ. Some attention is now being given to establishing more equity in other networks such as the Asian National Museums Association (ANMA).

There was also discussion around the commercial potential of VCM. For example, scholarly publications produced by smaller museums which have limited distribution outlets could be promoted online. Some caution was advised. Nonetheless, it was agreed that some way needs to be found to raise the profile of the site within Google.


4.3 Mapping of Asian Collections Project

Heidi Tan reported that this project had been shelved for several reasons. She called on Steven Englesman and Kim Jongsok to revisit some of these. There followed a discussion about how the work of mapping collections might still be partly addressed through VCM, or alternatively through more interactive features on the ASEMUS website. These could include links to existing networks of online collections (eg. Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Bangkok, as a local museums database online), specialist mailing groups, as well as forums for closed group discussions, like the platform currently provided by Culture 360. Challenges include the need for translation and volunteers to lead in this work. It was advised that private collections be avoided due to issues around promotion of works, including fakes for sale.


4.4 ASEMUS website report

Heidi Tan reported recent visitorship had more than doubled since 2012, from 25,000 unique visitors and 65,000 page views to 53,006 visitors and 109,450 page views in 2013. Facebook and Twitter users had also followed the same trend, from 4,000 Likes and 300 Twitter followers in 2012 to 10,903 Likes and 840 followers in 2013.

The number of visitors via Facebook was 5,500, and from Twitter 2,400. Visitors via VCM totalled 150, whilst those who visited VCM from the site were 400. The majority of visitors were from ASEM countries (79%) compared to non-ASEM countries (18.7%).

Membership had also increased to 106 museums from 38 countries. More of these were profiled on the website this year. The profiles total: 84 museums and 24 museum professionals compared to 70 museums and 21 professionals in 2012. A total of 32,000 people visited the museum profiles and the top 10 profiles were:

Guimet Museum (2,670), Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles (2,241), Quai Branly (1,494), National Museum of Ethnology (1,386), Brunei Museum (1,371), Asian Civilisations Museum (1,000), Corfu Museum (982), National Textile Museum, Malaysia (979), National Folk Museum of Korea (798), National Museum of Indonesia (673).


5. Election of Officers

5.1 Chair and Vice Chair

Heidi Tan reported that the current 3-year terms for Chair and Vice Chair positions were due. The new term would begin at the 2014 General Conference. Fionnuala Croke has agreed to take on the position of Chair and Alan Chong as Vice Chair.


5.2 Secretariat

The National Heritage Board, Singapore has agreed to extend its current three year term by one year to 2014. Suggestions for a new candidate to take up the post in 2015 were called for.

Fionnuala Croke agreed to explore the possibility of seeking funds for additional staffing, in order to host the secretariat function at the CBL. Kim Youngna noted that it is more efficient to host both Chair and Secretariat functions.


6. General Conference 2014

Kim Youngna and Fionnuala Croke introduced the theme of Exploring Borders that has been proposed for the GC to be hosted by the Weltmuseum Wien. The dates of 24-27 September 2014 were agreed by the Board.

Weltmuseum Director Dr. Steven Engelsman presented the format for this 2-day event and invited comments from the Board. Key note sessions on the first morning would be styled around the TEDx format of short (18mins) presentations on topics related to an overarching theme of Asia-Europe museum cooperation. This format requires accomplished speakers who are well known in their fields.

Weltmuseum Senior Curator Jani Khunt-Saptodewo then presented a list of proposed topics including the ASEF project Public Lab: Occupy the Museum; underwater archaeology; heritage and conflict; decolonisation in museum practice. Topics should be confirmed by May 2014.

The Board raised several issues in response. One was that the TEDx format is to be supported but that subjects should be made more relevant to a broader audience outside of the museum community, notably the media. Globalisation has meant that we need to look to issues outside the Asia-Europe remit. Relevant external voices need to be included and speakers carefully selected. The structure of the plenary and parallel afternoon sessions needs to be carefully planned so as to encourage participation. Good moderators, who can follow up on issues between the sessions, are particularly important.

The other is that more controversial topics should be identified and that the audience should be more engaged in discussions around these topics. Racism and colonial pasts are particularly relevant for Asian and European museums. These could be dealt with in more depth in the afternoon sessions. There was some concern however, that Asian museums would be extremely challenged by this approach, as the convention is usually not to talk publicly about controversy.

There was some disagreement about the need for a more specialised topic such as lacquer conservation. Many museums, especially in Asia, now need more advice and assistance with this. Caution was advised however, that projects must be made relevant to the overarching theme. It was noted that conference papers on this topic are now downloadable on the website, although this is not a substitute for hands-on workshops on the topic. Steven accepted that there is a need for assistance on technical subjects such as conservation and confirmed that the Weltmuseum could facilitate this, separately from the GC.


7. New projects

Secretariat Heidi Tan called for new proposals, particularly projects that address research such as fellowship programmes and enhance capacity building. She suggested that members consider streamlining their work, so that existing projects could include an ASEMUS-related component. She noted that some museums already have established fellowship programmes and that collaboration projects such as exhibitions often have some scope for capacity-building, for example in the form of short workshops and talks on aspects of exhibition-making.

Jenny Siung agreed and cited the Museum Learning Network which could include ASEMUS members. Sabina Santarossa emphasised the need to keep projects as multi-lateral as possible eg. have more than 3 members. The secretariat will monitor existing activities and look at how to incorporate more ASEMUS members in these.


8. ASEF Creative Networks Fund

Sabina Santarossa reported that the funding structure for this initiative provides for 3 projects per year. These include many other types of projects of which ASEMUS is one. Priority is given to multi-lateral projects that enhance Asia-Europe connectivity and relationships. The fund per project is capped at S$25,000 assuming it is less than or equal to 50% of the total project budget. The next release of funds will be in April 2014.


9. Next Meeting

It was agreed that the next Executive Committee meeting will be held in Vienna during the General Conference.






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