Drawn from the museum’s collection and private sources, the exhibition celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies(CSEAS) is, in Cooler’s words, a “contemporary curiosity cabinet” containing sculptures, ceramics, textiles, rattan weavings, wood carvings, leather carvings, silver repousse work, mother-of-pearl inlay and paper ephemera.
By displaying these rarely seen objects reflecting the culture of indigenous peoples and various ethnic groups now under pressure from globalization, Cooler said that he hopes to deepen people’s experience of Southeast Asia beyond Angkr Wat, Bali and other popular tourist destinations. “I don’t think these people and these objects should be forgotten because they’re being quickly eclipsed by international forces,” Cooler said.
Some of the objects in the exhibit are so unusual, Cooler said, that he believes even seasoned Southeast Asia scholars might be surprised at some of them, pointing out such items as a Vietnam War-era Lao weaving that includes helicopters and guns among its motifs.
“This exhibition is particularly exciting for the Anthropology Museum because it promotes one of the real strengths of the permanent collection and the university which is Southeast Asia,” Kirker-Priest said. “Through the passion and scholarship of our guest curator, Richard Cooler … this exhibit offers something for everyone. From the artistic beauty of each piece to the story and cultural context behind each object, this is an exhibition that will spark interest in even the most casual visitor.”