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Antiquities Coalition Joins Launch of Book on Southeast Asian Patrimony

May 6, 2021

The Antiquities Coalition was honored to participate in the virtual launch of a new book on Southeast Asian patrimony on May 6.

Publisher National University of Singapore Press has described this work, titled “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution,” as “a timely consideration of object restitution and related issues across Southeast Asia.” 

“Every Southeast Asian country has a different experience of the loss of antiquities, but we all share in the deeply-felt benefits of contemporary restitution initiatives,” Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Dr. Phoeurng Sackona said in a review. “This book makes an important contribution to bringing these questions out into the open.”

The work—which features the viewpoints of museum professionals and scholars from all over the world—was edited by Louise Tythacott, the Woon Tai Jee Professor of Asian Art at Northumbria University, and Panggah Ardiyansyah, MPhil/PhD student of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS University of London. They each offered their thoughts at the beginning of the launch event.

Their introduction was followed by commentary from several authorities on the book’s subject matter, including Antiquities Coalition Executive Director Tess Davis. Davis is a renowned expert on the illicit trade in Cambodian antiquities, having been knighted in 2015 by the Royal Government of Cambodia for her work in recovering the country’s plundered treasures.

“The stories that are told here—of Cambodia’s successes and of other successes throughout Southeast Asia—they remain as powerful testaments,” Davis said in her comments. “Our organization works very closely with governments who are facing some of the worst challenges of the twentieth century: conflict, terrorism, crime… And I’ve seen firsthand the inspiration that Southeast Asia’s successes provide to these governments, and to the people who live in these countries, who are working to recover from the situations they’re in. To know that Cambodia, with its rich culture and its history battered, but unbroken, was able to not only survive one of the worst conflicts of the twentieth century, but to come back stronger than ever—and that, today, it is bringing home its stolen treasures at a huge rate—that really gives such a message of hope to the communities and countries with which we work.”

Tythacott and Ardiyansyah—joined by book contributors Wieske Octaviani Sapardan and Duyen Nguyen—responded to Davis and her co-commentators, leading to a lively panel discussion and Q&A session with the audience.

To purchase “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution” visit the NUS Press website here. The book is also distributed in North America, South America, and China by the University of Chicago Press. Its website can be found here.

To watch the launch event, click here.