The Southeast Asian collections at the Oriental Museum reflect the many varied cultures of this area.
The Museum is home to collections from almost every country that makes up the region. The objects range from ceramics to textiles, as well as musical instruments, wood carvings, lacquerware, and arms and armour.
Highlights from the collection include:
- Headhunting swords used by the Iban people of Borneo
- An exquisite Burmese manuscript chest covered in gold lacquer
- Objects relating to the Cambodian royal family, saved from destruction by the Khmer Rouge.
The core of the collections was donated by the Rt Hon Malcolm MacDonald. After World War II, MacDonald served as Governor General of Malaya and Singapore and later as Commissioner General for Southeast Asia. During this time, he amassed a considerable collection of fascinating objects. MacDonald recognised the vital role that art and culture could play in international diplomacy, and many of the objects in the collection were presented to him by key political figures in the region at that time.
Complementing this is the Roberts Collection of Balinese Art. This substantial collection of woodcarving, sculpture and paintings from the island of Bali provides a picture of the changes in artistic practice on the island during the 20th century, as Balinese artists and craftspeople responded to the growth of international tourism. The Stemson collection of ceramics includes more than 100 pieces from across Southeast Asia, ranging in date from prehistory to the 20th century.
More recently, the Museum has actively engaged in collecting contemporary Vietnamese material to support an exhibition created in early 2015. In addition, generous donations from Mr Colin and Mrs Joy Glendenning and the missionary Father David Bingham have also helped to increase our collections from Malaysia and Indonesia.