ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

“Curator for a day”: Developing strategies to engage with permanent exhibitions


Hartig Anne - Museum Fünf Kontinente, South and Southeast Asian Department, Munich, Germany


12 – South Asian Collections in European Museums: Examining their acquisition, display, and futures


 In 1911, the Indologist Lucian Scherman and his wife Christine travelled to Burma, then a province of British India. On this journey, they collected about 2300 objects that built an important foundation for the South and Southeast Asia collection of the Museum für Völkerkunde (today Museum Fünf Kontinente) in Munich, of which Lucian was the director. Since 2014, selected objects of this historic collection have been displayed at the museum in its thematic exhibition Myanmar (formerly Burma). Religious Buddha statues and manuscripts, as well as jewellery, garments, tools and weapons from different communities are attractively presented in atmospheric sound and light against large-format photographs and scenographic backdrops, such as an artificial swamp landscape and a replicated facade of a Burmese stilt house. The paper carefully examines this visually striking and engaging display to problematize the stereotypical image it creates. Reflecting on the power of display strategies, it suggests means to incorporate this critical perspective into the permanent exhibition.