Meeting for the Mapping of Asian Collections Project


The Mapping of Asian Collection Project is based on the core of ASEMUS’s mission which is the sharing of collections and information. The Mapping Project was first proposed at the Paris General Conference in September 2010. The guiding principles and the action plan for 2011-2014 is Increased Visibility – Increased Sharing. This theme departs from the core of ASEMUS cooperation and will be a good vehicle for the “deepening” of the network to new staff categories. In addition, the theme constitutes a good practical rational for “new” museums to join the network.

The museum members have mutually agreed to work on the Mapping Project which will focus on three areas; the Mapping of Asian Collections, the Mapping of museum professionals and expertise and the Mapping of museum-related projects and engagements across Asia and Europe. The initial phase of the Mapping Project will focus on the Mapping of Asian Collections.

According to the decisions taken at the General Conference, the project should start with the organisation of a preparatory meeting. This meeting was held in Singapore on the 18th and 19th of July.  The Preparatory Workshop is a core working meeting to spell out the methodology of how ASEMUS is going to propose the execution of the project.

The meeting discussed the challenges and opportunities, scope of work as well as the methodology of the mapping.  The museum representatives attending the meeting will become the National Focal points and will be the main contacts to collect and input data for their country. They will also be the main group to provide inputs for the prototype map which will be shown to the ASEMUS Exco when they meet in October.

Notes of Singapore Meeting

Attendees (The core working group):

  1. Ms Christine Guetin, International Relation Manager, musee du quai Branly, Paris, France
  2. Mr Ahmad Mashadi, Head, NUSMuseum,Singapore
  3. Ms Joanna Wasilewska, Curator,Asia-PacificMuseum,Warsaw,Poland
  4. Mr Kamarul Baharin bin A. Kassim, Director,Muzium Negara,Malaysia
  5. Mr Mohd Razaimi bin Hamat, Registrar, Department of Museums,Malaysia
  6. Ms Sabina Santarossa, Director, Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)
  7. Ms Valentina Riccardi, Project Coordinator, ASEF
  8. Ms Sasiwimon Wongjarin Project Officer, ASEF
  9. Ms Tan Huism, Executive Secretary, ASEMUS

1             The meeting started off with general introductions of the participants at the meeting. This was followed by a presentation on the background to the Mapping project by Christine Guetin. All agreed that the objectives of the project should be clear before the survey and map are developed. The project leaders for the mapping project would be MQB as well as the National Museum of Korea.  

2             Sabina Santarossa explained about the funding situation at ASEF and its new funding policy. ASEF will not be providing funds to sustain networks but to specific proposals that furthers the ASEF mission. In future, ASEMUS would need to put in a funding proposal that would be evaluated together with proposals submitted by other institutions or organisations. 

 3             Participants shared information on relevant mapping projects that they have encountered in their own country.

 4             Tan Huism read out the comments submitted by the National Museum of Korea on the project as their representative was unable to attend the meeting in Singapore.

 5             Christine also brought the meeting through the questionnaire developed by mqb. This was discussed and while most of the information required is covered in the questionnaire, the meeting thought it might be more useful for the project to have more details on the collections. Christine warned that asking for too much information, might stop people from participating and so the survey to be developed should be easy and simple to complete.


6             There was much discussion on the concept of Asia and what countries were to be considered part of Asia. The regions/areas in the borders for example, Turkey (is it part of Europe or Asia) and the wide definition of the Malay world used in Malaysia which includes parts of Polynesia and so on, were interesting in highlighting the difficult discussions involved in definitions and perspectives of what constitutes Asia or Asian culture. Even though the participants understand the difficulties involved and that the present geo-political situations does not reflect shared heritage, a pragmatic approach had to be taken for this project – the decision was to adopt the country approach.

 7             There was also much discussion on the concern brought up by Sabina Santarossa regarding the inclusion of regions which are not part of ASEM. While participants understand the concerns of ASEF, they also stressed that any exclusion of regions for example of West Asia from Asia would be academically incorrect. However, given the rather ambitious nature of the mapping project, it was decided that ASEMUS first concentrates on the three regions of East, South and Southeast Asia as a starting point. The few countries in these regions which are not part of ASEM would be included in the project. In order for member museums to understand this decision to confine the mapping to selected Asian collections, ASEMUS Secretariat will draft a letter to accompany the survey questionnaire.

 8             Sabina also brought up the idea that there could be various maps developed to cover big themes that could be looked after by interested parties, for example, a map of Khmer materials, and so on. The meeting thought it was a good idea to get volunteers to help manage this like the Wikipedia approach but believed that at this point in time it would be rather ambitious and might be something to develop in future.

 Categories of objects

 9             Huism brought the meeting through the list of object categories. She showed the list used by UNESCO in their recent collection survey and another based on a list of top categories in the British Museum Object Thesaurus. The meeting went through the two lists and came up with a revised list tailored to the mapping project.

 10          The meeting realised that there would be objects that might fit in more than one category. However, given that the survey is not so much concerned with numbers and more about  areas of collection, this should not pose a big problem. The curator can be left to interpret which category to classify the object.

 11          It was decided to include in the survey, information the provenance of the collection which would help in a better understanding of the larger context of historical developments.

 12          After several rounds of discussion on the format and information required for the survey form, a tentative form has been worked out.

 Look and feel for the Map

13          There was much discussion on how the working group envisage the look and feel for the map. It was decided that on the map would reside on the ASEMUS website as a project page, one was able to see some basic information about the museums and then by clicking on the museum’s profile, you would be brought to another page. Whether this page is to reside on the ASEMUS website or not would be depend on the technical possibilities which will be discussed with the web designers. On the page with the museum details, one would then find all the information on the museum’s Asia collection present on that page.

 14          The map should be a possibility for a search function where if one wanted to find museums with South Asian collections for example, the map should be able to do that.


15          It was decided that Huism and ASEF work on the possibility of developing an on-line survey to be given to the working group members. Huism informed that while this work is being done on getting an on-line survey up, the working group members could start gathering information for the survey, as they are aware of what information is being asked for.

 16          It was decided that while representatives of the National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, they would also be encouraged to take part in the survey. The results of which would then be used to produce the prototype map.

 17          The input of the information from the survey will be worked on by Huism, Christine and ASEF, especially on the technical aspect of putting it onto the ASEMUS website. ASEF will get in touch with the web designers to explore the technical possibilities and the cost implications.

 18          As one of the purpose of the mapping project was also to map institutions that had Asian collections, it was agreed that the working team would provide the information of organisations within their country for the map according to the following format:

 Name of Institution/organisation:


Email of museum:

Website link:

(and if possible : What type of Asian collection)

Institutions could include heritage houses, churches, and so on.

 Project Timeline

19          The on-line survey to be sent to working group by Huism by mid August. Returns of the survey by working group members by 14th September and also information on the non-museum institutions for the prototype map. The map should be finished by 27th September so that it can be presented to the ASEMUS Exco at the Executive meeting on the 6th-7th October.  

Publicity for the Project

 20          It was agreed that the project would only be publicised once the Exco has seen the prototype map in October. If changes needed to be made it would be done before a public announcement to the members and the National Focal points to participate in the project. The outcome of the project to be presented at the next General conference which would be held in Korea in 2012.

Minutes by:

Tan Huism, National Heritage Board, Singapore

Secretary of ASEMUS



Be informed of the Latest Projects, News and Events