Finding Diversity in Myanmar Museums: Case Studies on the National Museum (Yangon) and National Museum (Nay Pyi Taw)

Independent Scholar, Myanmar

National museums are not only an integral part of a nation’s society but they also tell the stories of their countries. Museums in Myanmar hold some of the finest and most significant collections; they are treasure houses that showcase the history of Myanmar and tell a story of the creativity and achievement of the country’s people. In Myanmar, museums under the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture can be classified as national museums, archaeological museums, regional cultural museums and memorial museums. In this paper, I will explore two National Museums in particular. First, the Phayre Museum, the first Yangon museum, which was founded in honour of Sir Arthur Phayre, the first Chief Commissioner in Burma from 1862 to 1867. Phayre Museum, the original institution of the current National Museum (Yangon), was opened to the public in 1871. It was turned towards museum curatorship with the assistance of public donation. Currently, the history and the collections of the Phayre Museum have not been presented as a vital role in the National Museum (Yangon). Furthermore, most of the collections on display at the museum do not reflect the diversity of cultures in Myanmar accurately. Therefore, I will discuss the curatorial work displayed at the museums and the effects that changing government policies have had on the state of the museums. The presentation is structured in two parts. The first section discusses why these museums could not link the past to the present. The second section considers the curatorial work of national museums that differs based on changing government policies.