Preservation methodologies for the conservation of cultural materials in tropical Southeast Asia present many unique and challenging issues. There are vast collections of traditional and modern objects in public and private hands, however the preservation methodologies appropriate to the objects’ value and materiality, the diverse tropical climates, and the in-country resources, knowledge systems and expertise are in development. Likewise, attitudes to cultural heritage conservation across tropical Southeast Asia vary greatly, both in their approach and in their philosophical origins. In many Southeast Asian countries we can trace a respect for, and an active use of and conservation of the past and its material culture through traditional systems. More recently in the twentieth century, preservation models have been based on scientific, museological principles as introduced through international charters, which then made their way into the conservation laboratories of the national museums and galleries, and private practice.

During my IIAS Fellowship, my goal is to review conservation approaches and their physical enactment in the Asia Pacific region, and how institutions and communities have struggled with the tension between object centred and scientific methods versus ones that are value and geographically focused. How conservation practice is negotiated and authorised will be a key areas of investigation.