Collaborative museum exhibition disappoints

Collaborative museum exhibition disappoints

Possibly the hardest exhibition in the world to find is showing at the Angkor National Museum. The exhibition, titled  Our Common Heritage: Exploring the World Heritage Sites of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam,  deals with six different heritage sites; Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear, Vietnam’s Thang Long Citadel, Ho Citadel and My Son, and Vat Phu in Laos.

Despite a very worthy and deeply meaningful press release from UNESCO, when Insider went to view it, no one at the museum knew anything about it. “Are you sure?” the girl at the ticket booth said. “Who told you?” She went to fetch her colleague who backed her up: “There is no new exhibition here.”​ After twenty minutes of fruitless wandering and phone-calls to the exhibition organisers at UNESCO, Insider eventually made contact with a helpful member of staff and was directed to a small exhibition space down a non-signposted corridor away from the main gallery.​ The exhibition which, ironically calls itself “an imaginary museum” aims to, “provide visitors with new narratives by shedding light on the historical interconnection between various World Heritage sites and related populations of sub-region”.

It is made up of different informational panels themed under such topics as Nature and Myth, Trade and Exchange and Mythical Water Figures. There is also a section specially created by the museum itself on Jayavarman VII: Life and Belief. While the information and accompanying photographs are interesting, disappointingly there was no sign of the promised “artifacts and in-situ elements” mentioned in the introductory panel.

The installation is the result of a collaborative project by UNESCO and Japanese Funds-in-Trust called ‘Revitalizing World Heritage Site Museums in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam’ which was originally launched in July 2011. This was followed by regional workshops in Hanoi and Siem Reap in which nine museums participated; the National Museum of Cambodia, Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum, Angkor National Museum, Preah Vihear Eco-Global Museum, Thang Long Imperial Citadel Site Museum, My Son Interpretation Centre , Da Nang Cham Sculpture Museum, Ho Citadel Museum and Vat Phu Site Museum.

Our Common Heritage will run at all nine museums. The exhibition at Angkor National Museum follows a stint at Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum in December and an installation at Phnom Penh’s National Museum in February. Later this year the exhibition will open at the Eco Global Museum in Preah Vihear.

Alongside the exhibition, in conjunction with the eight other participating museums Angkor National Museum will run an educational program for children until the end of June 2013.

Our Common Heritage runs until July 31 2013.

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