This panel aims at defining museums of Asian arts outside Asia as cultural expressions of representations of the Other. Mapping the collections and tracing their histories and development, it will be possible to unravel the identity of these institutions and the notions of 'Asia' emerging from them.
Museums of Asian arts located outside Asia have so far attracted little scholarly attention as a specific group within the category of specialist museums. Hovering at the intersection between art museums, archaeological museums, ethnographic museums and museums of world cultures, their identity and that of their collections has not been clarified in museological and anthropological terms. Hence, this panel aims at engaging participants in a discussion on issues that can finally cast light on what these institutions are precisely. We encourage the proposal of papers that help to recognise common features and distinctive traits among these museums. The questions at the heart of this debate are: why, how and when museums of Asian arts came into existence? How have their policies, practices and objectives developed? What are their prospects in ever-changing museal, socioeconomic, cultural and political scenarios? As we look at the history and process of musealisation of Asian arts, we will focus on the cultural practices linked to collecting and exhibiting. We also seek to highlight how display and acquisition choices ultimately produce representations of the artefacts' cultural identities. Through the investigation of the typology, geography, historical and cultural context of the objects in the collections, we intend to outline a conceptual map of ideas of 'Asia', an entity the boundaries of which often appear peculiarly blurred, far from unequivocal. Consequently, the contributions to this panel will offer, from a transnational and crosscultural perspective, the jigsaw pieces that, put together, will compose the rationale connecting museal narratives about 'Asia'.