SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Preserving God: Collection and Conversion in the Oldest Cabinet of Curiosities in the Philippines

Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut

Date: 10 January 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 10 January 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4426

Type of Event: Seminar

Preserving Gold


Described as the oldest existing museum in the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas Museum of Arts and Sciences is a case of curiosity. By Spanish royal decree, its early collection acquired through colonial expeditions, complex evangelical networks, and commercial expositions formed the classroom materials for the Natural History course taught by Dominican friars. By 1877, the fauna, flora, and mineral—from the minutiae to the monumental, from the ordinary to the odd—were inventoried in a three-volume catalogue raisonné. Its collection has since elicited a sense of wonder in nature’s perfection and diversity. Within the broader philosophical contexts of natural and revealed theology and the historic revival of Thomism after Charles Darwin’s publication of his theory of evolution through natural selection, the museum’s pursuit of scientific knowledge masked—and continues to do so—its pursuit of sacred ‘truth,’ engendering an epiphany through the embalmed and serving the divine through the drama of its dioramas. Operating as a mode of signification and translation of the Word, the museum became a biblical exegesis of the origin of species and sought to preserve God amidst the ever-increasing threat of globalization in the Philippines.

Speaker Biography

Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut is a Lecturer of Art History at SUNY Oneonta. She received her B.A. (1993), M.A. (1997), and Ph.D. (2004) in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles. A two-time Fulbright U.S. Scholar(Student/Faculty Grant), a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, and a Faculty Learning Community Participant through the NEH Humanities Initiative Grant, Baluyut is the co-editor of Confrontations, Crossings, and Convergence: Photographs of the Philippines and the United States, 1898-1998 and author of Institutions and Icons of Patronage: Arts and Culture in the Philippines during the Marcos Years, 1965-1986. She also served as Advisor for the Arts at the National Museum of the Philippines and was appointed by the Department of Foreign Affairs as Project Manager/Curator of the Philippines at the Venice Biennale in 2015.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies

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