Museum are are tricky thing for me, since when you saw a few of them, it often feels as if you saw them all. However, despite how many museums I have visited in any number of countries, there are always a few that appeal to me because they go into a subject I am not familiar with.
The Asian Civilisations Museum was one of these.
The first thing that struck me was the fact that the Museum was broken down by regions. I suppose it was silly of me to be surprised by this, as America and Europe are broken down in smaller divisions. So yes, Asia is actually divided in 6 regions and regroups many more countries than I first thought:
- Northern Asia (Russia and Siberia)
- Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan)
- Eastern Asia (China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan)
- Western Asia or Middle-East (Bahrain, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qater, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen)
- Southern Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka)
- South-Eastern Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam)
This really made me realize that my geography knowledge could really use improvement when it comes to regions outside of the Americas and Europe.
The Museum covered with quite some depths the topics of population movements in Asia and the way it changed the face of the continent. Much like it did in Canada and in other parts of the world… Say Australia for example. It’s funny how I had never reflected on this before, but then again this is not really something high school history classes cover. The curriculum sticks mostly to European History after all.
And, really, if you would allow me I could go even further and say that I have not really been to a Canadian museum that really went into the Canadian diaspora. While I have been taught about the Duplessis’ years in Quebec and the Second World War in Europe, I know very little of the impacts of immigration from the Greeks, the Italians and the Irish. Even, the dire consequence of the arrival of the Spanish, English and French in America for the First Nations are not something which we know much about. Most of what I know on the subject I learned in university in my optional classes (some of which were in aboriginal studies). If you are curious about First Nations in North America, you can start by looking at this map, which shows just how many nations occupied the territory before the Europeans came to the continent.
My visit to the Asian Civilizations Museum really outlined how little I knew about Asia, but also some major parallels I have failed to establish when it came to history.
In this way, it was really beneficial. It was also quite pleasant, as the exhibition was very interactive. It is a new trend I have noticed in museology. It seems museums are always looking for new ways to reach out to their visitors and pique their interest. They no longer seem afraid of technology and are rather embracing it, using multimedia and games to transfer knowledge.
Oh and one last thing, I also learned another thing about China. Silk is not the only thing it is known for, China is also very famous for its ceramics. Which again is a bit silly of me considering I often hear the expression “Bringing out the China” when a occasion warrants bringing out the fine dinnerware. (Read more on China ceramics here.)