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Tan, Heidi (2020) Meritorious Curating and the Renewal of Pagoda Museums in Myanmar. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London.

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Gifts have been accumulated, stored and displayed at sacred sites in Myanmar for millennia as they have elsewhere within the Buddhist world. This thesis is the first attempt to analyse the phenomenon known as the ‘pagoda museum’ that existed since at least the early 1900s and emerged as a formal response to legacies of Buddhist merit-making in Myanmar around the time of Independence (1948). It seeks to understand the forms and practices of the pagoda museum as processes of museumisation located within sacred space. The museological approach was initially inspired by comparative studies of local curating in Thai monastery museums (Kreps 2003, Koanantakool 2006) and more broadly in small-scale or micromuseums (Candlin, 2016). The growing museological interest in the representation of Buddhist art and material culture in Asia and beyond augments the comparative approach taken in the thesis (Suzuki 2007; Mathur and Singh 2015; Grimes 1992, Gaskell 2003; Tythacott 2011, 2017; Clark 2016). Three case studies chosen from a survey of 84 sites in 2015–2016 demonstrate that pagoda museums may be understood in terms of three inter-related dimensions; as spatial entities that develop from within a sacred site, as curatorial or keeping practices that are themselves a work of merit, and in terms of the objects of merit-making that are interpreted through the medium of display. The case-studies focus on sites of national or regional significance which offer comparative data for analysis. The Shwedagon Pagoda Buddha Museum in Yangon, the ‘Inner Museum’ at Yadana Man Aung Temple in southern Shan State, and the Bagan Archaeological Museum. The latter demonstrates that state and pagoda museums have long co-existed and share permutations of curatorial practices especially with regard to the display of sacred objects. Visitors’ responses offer important insights to the way pagoda museums were being renewed during the period of survey. They demonstrated that the deep connection with sacred objects, the source of the enduring vitality of pagoda museums, results in a model of museumisation that challenges museum conventions in Myanmar and beyond.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
Keywords: Pagoda museum, merit-making, curatorial, micromuseums, Buddhism, sacred space
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts
Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of the History of Art & Archaeology
SOAS Research Theses
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BQ Buddhism
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia, Africa, Indian ocean islands, Australia, New Zealand)
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Supervisors Name: Louise Tythacott, Pierson Stacey and Luczanits Christian
Copyright Statement: I have read and understood Regulation 21 of the General and Admissions Regulations for students of the SOAS, University of London concerning plagiarism. I undertake that all the material presented for examination is my own work and has not been written for me, in whole or in part, by any other person. I also undertake that any quotation or paraphrase from the published or unpublished work of another person has been duly acknowledged in the work which I present for examination.
Date Deposited: 31 May 2024 18:31

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