Redrawing Borders – Building Asia’s Museum Culture in the Digital Age

Paper
Adriel Luis, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, USA

Published paper: Redrawing borders – Building Asia’s museum culture in the digital age

The modern museum has been a global concept since the 1700’s. However, in the 20th Century, Europe and the United States saw a great surge in museums and museum culture, which wasn’t shared in other parts of the world. In the West, museums have spent the past few generations becoming tenements for cultural and historical understanding – but in most parts of Asia, this role has been fulfilled by temples, monuments, folkways, and other vehicles besides museums. Today, South Korea is home to 500 museums and galleries – just a fraction of the 2,000 in New York City alone. And while Asia currently experiences a “late bloom” in museums – opening thousands in just the last few years – this phenomenon is occurring within a digital age instead of an industrial one.

Today, Asian countries such as China, Singapore, Japan and even North Korea are heavily investing in their national museum infrastructures. But while the tendency is to follow the West’s blueprint, establishing societal embrace of museums now presents vastly different implications than it did a century ago. Meanwhile, the ways that people across the globe create, receive and share content is evolving as rapidly as technology itself.

How will the museum world and its approaches evolve in response to a growing Asian audience? In this presentation, we will compare Asia’s budding museum renaissance with that of the West’s in previous centuries. We will also survey how different Asian societies have traditionally approached cultural and historical scholarship, and how technology can be a bridge to contemporary museum approaches in the region. Additionally, we will explore how shifts in migration, tourism, and content sharing are crucial elements to consider while museums rethink their role in global society.

Bibliography:
The modern museum has been a global concept since the 1700’s. However, in the 20th Century, Europe and the United States saw a great surge in museums and museum culture, which wasn’t shared in other parts of the world. In the West, museums have spent the past few generations becoming tenements for cultural and historical understanding – but in most parts of Asia, this role has been fulfilled by temples, monuments, folkways, and other vehicles besides museums. Today, South Korea is home to 500 museums and galleries – just a fraction of the 2,000 in New York City alone. And while Asia currently experiences a “late bloom” in museums – opening thousands in just the last few years – this phenomenon is occurring within a digital age instead of an industrial one. Today, Asian countries such as China, Singapore, Japan and even North Korea are heavily investing in their national museum infrastructures. But while the tendency is to follow the West’s blueprint, establishing societal embrace of museums now presents vastly different implications than it did a century ago. Meanwhile, the ways that people across the globe create, receive and share content is evolving as rapidly as technology itself. How will the museum world and its approaches evolve in response to a growing Asian audience? In this presentation, we will compare Asia’s budding museum renaissance with that of the West’s in previous centuries. We will also survey how different Asian societies have traditionally approached cultural and historical scholarship, and how technology can be a bridge to contemporary museum approaches in the region. Additionally, we will explore how shifts in migration, tourism, and content sharing are crucial elements to consider while museums rethink their role in global society.