Our appreciation of the past determines how we shape our future. A shared heritage not only reminds us of our collective identity and cultural diversity, it also nurtures social belonging and promotes economies amongst local communities.
By engaging in dialogue about heritage awareness and preservation, Asia and Europe can benefit from the exchange of knowledge and best practices. At the same time, it deepens mutual understanding of each other’s values, histories and traditions.
- Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS) Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS) is a cross-cultural network of museums that promotes mutual understanding between Asia and Europe through collaborative activities such as the sharing and use of museum collections.
- EUC-NLB Series on the EU & Singapore - Culture and Identity Over 2,500 years of cultural exchange between Europe and Asia took centre stage at ‘A Passage to Asia’. The stunning display of historical artifacts was curated by Dr Jan van Alphen, Curator and Chairman of the Scientific Committee, BOZAR in Belgium, along with Dr Kenson Kwok, Founding Director of the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. The exhibition, which involved 16 ASEMUS members from Asia and Europe, also commemorated the 8th ASEM Summit in Belgium in October 2010.
- Roundtable: The Cultural Heritages of Asia & Europe: Global Challenges and Local Initiatives The two-day Roundtable gathered 19 civil society experts to discuss the multi-faceted aspects of cultural heritage in Asia and Europe. The experts stressed the need for heritage education for young people and promotion of the "shared heritage" between Asia and Europe.
- ASEF at the 4th ASEM Culture Ministers’ Meeting In line with its mandate, ASEF facilitated recommendations on heritage management from civil society to ASEM governments. A key recommendation was the need to recognise and support the valuable role of various social actors, alongside governments, in the governance of heritage. ASEM Culture Ministers commended the Asia-Europe Foundation for its continuing work in increasing cultural understanding between the two regions.
Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS)
Museum collections are a testament to the wide expanse of art, as well as human beings’ inherent ability to appreciate beauty in its multifaceted splendour. Recognising the importance of museums in promoting cultural diversity, ASEF established the Asia-Europe Museum Network (ASEMUS) in 2000. Today, the network boasts over 80 institutional members across Asia and Europe.
Over the last decade, ASEMUS has encouraged the sharing of art and heritage collections among its members, and fostered collaborations between museum professionals from the two regions.
Among ASEMUS’ most successful programmes is the ‘Virtual Collection of Masterpieces’, an online portal which features over 2,000 masterpieces from over 100 museums in Asia and Europe. This virtual collection not only shows the finest examples of Asian and European art – some dating to prehistoric times – but also tells the story of mutual influences across different civilisations and epochs.
Another noteworthy ASEMUS initiative is the ‘A Passage to Asia’ exhibition. The spectacular showcase, which took place in 2010 at the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels, featured treasures from 20 different countries that recall over 2,500 years of cultural exchange between Asia and Europe. The exhibition was first seen by various Heads of State and government officials from Asia and Europe who attended the 8th ASEM Summit, and later by over 20,000 visitors.
“ASEF has helped immensely to open up the international museum world by making our relations more equal and democratic.”— Karl Magnusson, International Cooperation Manager, National Museums of World Culture, Sweden
“Through ASEMUS we met many museum directors and professionals we would not have met in other museum forums; that is a value to us.”— Dr Kenson Kwok, Founding Director, Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore
- The former French President Jacques Chirac gave a keynote speech at the occasion of ASEMUS’ 10th year anniversary at the 2010 ASEMUS General Conference in musee du Quai Branly.
- The travelling exhibition: “Self and Others: Portraits from Asia and Europe”, which involved 18 museums, attracted over 60,000 visitors in Japan.
- A Passage to Asia: 25 Centuries of Exchange between Asia and Europe exhibition at The Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels (Belgium) showcased 420 artifacts from 20 countries, attracted more than 20,000 visitors.
EUC-NLB Series on the EU & Singapore - Culture and Identity
The European Union of 27 countries is most often thought of as an economic entity, a single market of over 500 million consumers, and the use of a common currency – the Euro – by 17 of the 27 member states. Yet of late, questions have been raised as to how far the project of integrating a region with 23 official languages, and many more regional tongues, can proceed if the idea of a European political and social space and its attendant identity and culture remain contested.
Singapore is a highly successful economy of over 5 million people, and also a highly globalised island-state situated in Southeast Asia that continues to draw on its rich melting pot of cultures for inspiration. The debates with regard to the influx of immigrants, and the common space and pace of integration among the different ethnic and religious groups have raised interesting questions of identity and culture.
This series of panel discussions brought together European and Singaporean speakers who explored ideas of contemporary consumer culture, common urban spaces, conservation of the past, music, and how they contribute to identity-building and our acceptance and affinity of political constructs such as Singapore and the European Union.
Issues to ponder
- On music Singaporean audiences are more accustomed to Anglo-American popular music than to the traditional folk music of Southeast Asia, despite the greater geographical proximity of the latter genre of music. as raised by Dr Tan Shzr Ee, ethnomusicologist, Royal Holloway, University of London)
- On urban heritage conservation
Whose heritage is to be preserved? Is it the buildings representing the European heritage from the colonial era? Or should buildings representing each ethnic and religious community be given equal consideration?
(as raised by Assoc Prof Victor Savage, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore)
- On cultural diplomacy
Cultural diplomacy now involves a wider range of actors than just governments. This reaffirms the role of the arts and culture in addressing a wide range of issues, including political and economic ones, since human development and well-being are not just about the GDP per capita.
(as raised by Sabina Santarossa, Director of Cultural Exchange, Asia-Europe Foundation)