SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Dr Heidi Tan

MA Art & Archaeology (SOAS)
  • Research


Heidi Tan
Department of History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr Heidi Tan
Email address:
Thesis title:
Meritorious Curating and the Renewal of Pagoda Museums in Myanmar (2013-2016)
Year of Study:


Heidi Tan was a founding curator of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore where she worked since 1996. She was responsible for developing the Southeast Asian collections and permanent galleries of the museum. She curated a series of special exhibitions in collaboration with regional museums in Southeast Asia including: Viet Nam. From Myth to Modernity (2008), Sumatra: Isle of Gold (2010), Enlightened Ways. The Many Streams of Buddhist Art in Thailand (2012) and most recently contributed to Cities and Kings. Ancient Treasures from Myanmar (2016).

PhD Research

‘Ancient things’ have been amassed, stored and displayed at sacred sites in Myanmar for millennia as they have elsewhere within the Buddhist world. This thesis looks at the more recent phenomenon known as the ‘pagoda museum’ that emerged in response to legacies of Buddhist merit-making from the 1950s onwards. The comparative approach seeks to understand the forms and practices of the pagoda museum and how it manifests as a process of museumisation located within sacred space. Shifts in this process observed during the period 2013-2016 reflect wider social changes in Myanmar and beyond as similar manifestations elsewhere in Asia suggest (Mathur and Singh 2015). The approach to this study is inspired by comparative museologies particularly the emerging study of ‘micromuseology’ (Fiona Candlin, 2016).


  • Articles on exhibiting Southeast Asian Buddhist Art at, 2015 - 2017.
  • "Cultural Landscapes of Later Myanmar" with Khine Pyae Sone, in Cities and Kings. Ancient Treasures from Myanmar, Stephen Murphy (ed). Singapore: Asian Civilisations Museum, 2016.
  • Enlightened Ways. The Many Streams of Buddhist Art in Thailand, Singapore: Asian Civilisations Museum, 2012.


  • "The Museum in the Temple: Curating the Sacred and the Pagoda Museum in Myanmar", talk for Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, SOAS, 21 March 2018.
  • "Curating the Lives of a Wish fulfilling Buddha", American Council for Southern Asian Art Symposium XVIII, Boston, 12-15 October 2017.
  • "Curating the lives of the Alodawpyi Buddha" in Myanmar. UKABS, 19 September 2016.
  • Convenor: "Curating Southeast Asia" ASEASUK, 16-18 September 2016.
  • Digital Photography in the Museum: A Practical Workshop for the Bagan Archaeological Museum, Bagan, 7-9 August 2016.


  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Co-editor, Pratu, Journal of Buddhist and Hindu Art, Architecture and Archaeology from Ancient to Premodern Southeast Asia
  • Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore


I am interested in cross-disciplinary approaches to curating Buddhist material culture and the museumisation of temples in Myanmar and Southeast Asia.