SOAS University of London

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

Professor Louise Tythacott

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications


Louise Tythacott
Department of History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Professorial Research Associate

SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies

Academic Staff, Centre of South East Asian Studies

SOAS China Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS China Institute

Centre of Buddhist Studies


The Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

Research and Publications Sub-board Member and Scholarships Sub-board Member

Professor Louise Tythacott
Email address:


Louise’s first degree was in Social Anthropology with Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury. Her post-graduate research was based at the University of Hong Kong where she undertook fieldwork on Chinese folk deity imagery and temple iconography. She studied Chinese at the University of Westminster and holds a PhD from the University of Manchester.

Before arriving at SOAS, she was a Lecturer in Museology at the University of Manchester, and also a Curator of Asian Collections and Head of the Non-Western Department for the National Museums Liverpool. She was the lead curator for the World Cultures gallery at Liverpool Museum, which opened in 2005, with specific responsibilities for the Asia and Buddhism displays. Louise has worked as the curator of a private Burmese textile collection, and as an Exhibitions Officer at The Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery & Museums, Brighton. She has also been a Managing Editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Museum and Society, and she continues to work on museum projects and curate exhibitions.

At SOAS, she created the innovative, exhibition module Curating Cultures in 2015 and, with Paul Basu in 2017, she established the MA programme in Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies.


PhD Students supervised
  • Arjmand Aziz Ahmad, Contemporary Indigenous Australian art and private display histories in London
  • Ayesha Fuentes, On the use of human remains in Tibetan ritual objects
  • Elizabeth Reid, An investigation into the meaning and significance of the exhibitions of Chinese art at the Whitechapel Art Gallery between 1901 and 1934
  • Helen Glaister, Collecting in Public and Private: The Ionides Collection of Chinese Export Porcelain, 1920-1970
  • Ivy Chan, Collecting Chinese Art in Hong Kong during the 20th Century: Appropriation and Location
  • Miranda Bruce-Mitford, From Natural History to Wayang: The Collections and Collecting Practices of Thomas Stamford Raffles
  • Xiaoxin Li, Rethinking Guang shi jia ju (Cantonese style furniture): A Design History of Mid 18th Century to early 20th Century
Current PhD Students:
  • Duyen Nguyen, Collecting and Curating Cham Art in Vietnam: from 1975 to the present.
Current MPhil Student:
  • Deidre Parker, Tracing Buddhism in the British Museum: Biographies of Buddhist Objects acquired by the British Museum in the 19th - 20th c.
Louise also contributes to the following courses:
  • Theory and Method in the Study of Asian and African Art
  • Research Skills Training Course
  • SOAS Diploma in Asian Arts Course
  • Curating Global Arts
Completed PhD students:
  • Stephanie Tredan. Stuck in Limbo: The Repatriation of Unprovenanced Australian Indigenous Ancestral Remains from UK and Australian Museums (2018)
  • Hee Jung Lee. Exploring visual modernity and national identity in modern China: Fu Baoshi’s self-awareness and critical response during the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945).(2015)
  • Maria Sklirou. The Issue of Access in Greek Museums. (2009)
  • Alan Arcadia.An Intimate Destruction: Desire, Death and the Self in Buddhism, Surrealism and Georges Bataille.(2009)
  • Emma Poulter. The West African Collections at Manchester Museum.(2008)


Louise’s research focuses on the collecting and display of non-Western artefacts, and she has particular interests in the representation of Chinese and Buddhist objects in museums.

Louise is co-editing a volume with Panggah Ardiyansyah, “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums and Restitution” (NUS Press, 2020).

In 2016, with Christian Luczanits (PI), Louise was awarded an AHRC Research Grant of £438,000 for a three-year project (2016-19) to investigate Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections and Museums in Nepal and Ladakh.

From 2017-2018, Louise secured a major philanthropic donation to undertake research on the histories of objects from China’s Yuanmingyuan - or old “Summer Palace” - in British and French museum collections, and is presently completing a monograph on the “Summer Palace Diaspora”.


Authored Books

Tythacott, Louise (2011) The Lives of Chinese Objects: Buddhism, Imperialism and Display. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.

Tythacott, Louise (2003) Surrealism and the Exotic. London: Routledge.


Tythacott, Louise (2018) 'Exhibiting and Auctioning Yuanmingyuan (“Summer Palace”) Loot in 1860s and 1870s London: The Elgin and Negroni Collections'. Journal for Art Market Studies, (2) 3, pp 1-15.

Tythacott, Louise (2017) 'Curating the Sacred: Exhibiting Buddhism at World Museum Liverpool'. Buddhist Studies Review, (34) 1, pp 115-133.

Tythacott, Louise (2017) '英国军事类博物馆中的圆明园文物'. 美成在久 [Chinese Orientations], (Sept), pp 108-111.

Tythacott, Louise (2016) 'The power of taste: the dispersal of the Berkeley Smith collection of Chinese ceramics at Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum (1921-1960)'. Journal of the History of Collections, (28) 2, pp 327-343.

Tythacott, Louise (2015) 'Trophies of War: Representing ‘Summer Palace’ Loot in Military Museums in the UK'. Museum and Society, (13) 4, pp 469-488.

Tythacott, Louise (2011) 'Race on display: the “Melanian”, “Mongolian” and “Caucasian” galleries at Liverpool Museum (1896-1929)'. Early Popular Visual Culture, (9) 2, pp 131-146.

Tythacott, Louise (2010) 'Curiosities, Antiquities, Art Treasure, Commodities: collecting Chinese deity figures in mid-nineteenth-century England'. Journal of Museum Ethnography, (23), pp 56-71.

Tythacott, Louise (2009) 'Sacred Island Deities'. Apollo, (CLXIX) 563, pp 90-97.

Tythacott, Louise (2000) 'Khmer'. The Millennium Encyclopaedia, pp 25-40.

Tythacott, Louise (1999) 'A Convulsive Beauty: Surrealism, Oceania and African Art'. Journal of Museum Ethnography 11, pp 43-53.

Tythacott, Louise (1998) 'The African Collection at Liverpool Museum'. African Arts, (XXXI) 3, pp 18-35.

Tythacott, Louise (1993) 'Colonel Green's Burma: Peoples and Textiles of the 1920s'. The Royal Pavilion Review 1, pp 3-7.

Tythacott, Louise (1992) 'Chinese Robes in the Ethnography Gallery'. The Royal Pavilion Review 2, pp 10-12.

Tythacott, Louise (1991) 'The Ernest Box Collection of Chinese Deities in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery'. The Royal Pavilion Review 2, pp 8-10.

Edited Books or Journals

Tythacott, Louise and Ardiyansyah, Panggah, (eds.), (2020) Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution.. Singapore: NUS Press. (Art and Archaeology of Southeast Asia: Hindu-Buddhist Traditions). [Forthcoming]

Tythacott, Louise, (ed.), (2018) Collecting and Displaying China's 'Summer Palace' in the West: The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France. Abingdon; New York, NY: Routledge.

Tythacott, Louise and Arvanitis, Kostas, (eds.), (2014) Museums and Restitution: New Practices, New Approaches. Farnham: Ashgate.

Book Chapters

Tythacott, Louise and Ardiyansyah, Panggah (2020) 'Collecting and Returning Southeast Asia’s Past'. In: Tythacott, Louise and Ardiyansyah, Panggah, (eds.), Returning Southeast Asia's Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution. Singapore: NUS Press. [Forthcoming]

Tythacott, Louise and Chea, Socheat and Muong, Chanraksmey (2020) 'The Looting of Koh Ker and the Return of the Prasat Chen statues'. In: Tythacott, Louise and Ardiyansyah, Panggah, (eds.), Returning Southeast Asia's Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution. Singapore: NUS Press. [Forthcoming]

Tythacott, Louise (2020) 'Military Histories of ‘Summer Palace’ Objects from China'. In: Lidchi, Henrietta and Allan, Stuart, (eds.), Dividing the Spoils: Perspectives on Military Collecting and the British Empire. Manchester: Manchester University Press. [Forthcoming]

Tythacott, Louise (2020) 'Transforming Chemde Museum: Monastic Curating and Co-Curating in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh'. In: Cai, Yunci, (ed.), The Museum in Asia. London: Routledge: Leicester Readers in Museum Studies. [Forthcoming]

Tythacott, Louise (2019) 'Problems, Practices and Politics of Provenancing objects from China’s Yuanmingyuan'. In: Milosch, Jane and Pearce, Nick, (eds.), Collecting and Provenance: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach. Rowman & Littlefield: Maryland, pp 359-370.

Tythacott, Louise (2019) 'Curiosity, Loot and Art: A Brief History of Collecting Chinese objects in the West'. In: Ates, Guler, (ed.), The MAO: The Museum and the East, Artists book of the Museum of Oriental Art (MAO), Turin. Turin: MAO. [Forthcoming]

Tythacott, Louise (2018) 'The Yuanmingyuan and its Objects'. In: Tythacott, Louise, (ed.), Collecting and Displaying China's 'Summer Palace' in the West: The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France. Abingdon; New York, NY: Routledge, pp 3-24.

Tythacott, Louise (2016) 'British travels in China during the Opium Wars (1839-1860): Shifting Images and Perceptions'. In: Hill, Kate, (ed.), Britain and the Narration of Travel in the Nineteenth Century: Texts, Images, Objects. London, UK: Routledge, pp 191-208.

Tythacott, Louise and Arvanitis, Kostas (2014) 'Introduction: Museums and Restitution'. Museums and Restitution: New Practices, New Approaches. Farnham: Ashgate, pp 1-18.

Tythacott, Louise (2012) 'Classifying China: shifting interpretations of Buddhist bronzes in Liverpool Museum, 1867-1997'. Museums and Biographies: Stories, Objects, Identities. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, pp 173-185.

Tythacott, Louise (2010) 'The Politics of Representation in Museums'. Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences. London: Taylor & Francis Group, pp 4230-4241.

Tythacott, Louise (2001) 'From the ‘fetish’ to the ‘specimen’: the Ridyard African collection at the Liverpool Museum 1895-1916'. Collectors: expressions of self and other. London: Horniman Museum, pp 157-179.

Tythacott, Louise (2000) 'Souvenirs of the travelling surrealists'. In: Hitchcock, Michael and Teague, Ken, (eds.), Souvenirs: the material culture of tourism. Farnham: Ashgate, pp 72-77.

Tythacott, Louise (1995) 'The Theatre of the Incorporeal'. In: Benewick, Robert and Donald, Stephanie, (eds.), Belief in China: Art and Politics; Deities and Mortality. Brighton: Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery & Museums, pp 19-27.

Tythacott, Louise (1995) 'Eastern Asia'. Kingfisher Book of Mythology. London: Larousse, pp 100-125.

Tythacott, Louise (1995) 'Dance'. Dance. Hove: Wayland Publishers, pp 1-48.

Tythacott, Louise (1995) 'Musical Instruments'. Musical Instruments. Hove: Wayland Publishers, pp 1-48.

Tythacott, Louise (1994) 'Kinyozi: African Art between the boundaries'. Kinyozi: The Art of African Hairstyles. Brighton: Green Centre for Non-Western Art, pp 9-21.

Tythacott, Louise (1994) 'Jewellery and Accessories'. Jewellery and Accessories. Hove: Wayland Publishers, pp 1-48.

Book Reviews

Tythacott, Louise (2017) 'Review of: UNESCO in Southeast Asia: World Heritage Sites in Comparative Perspective. University of Hawaii Press, 2015.'. Southeast Asia Research, (25) 1, pp 98-100.

Tythacott, Louise (2016) 'Review of: The Great Chinese Art Transfer: How so Much of China’s Art Came to America by Michael St. Clair, Rowman & Littlefied, 2016.'. The China Quarterly, (228) December, pp 1140-1142.

Tythacott, Louise (2015) 'Review of 'Heritage Management, Tourism, and Governance in China: Managing the Past to Serve the Present''. International Journal of Heritage Studies, (21) 8, pp 841-842.

Tythacott, Louise (2014) 'Review of 'Translating Museums: A Counterhistory of South Asian Museology' by Shaila Bhatti'. Museum History Journal, (7) 1, pp 122-123.

Tythacott, Louise (2012) 'Review of 'The Empty Museum: Western Cultures and the Artistic Field in Modern Japan' by Masaaki Morishita'. International Journal of Heritage Studies, (18) 1, pp 732-733.

Tythacott, Louise (2008) 'Review of 'Imperialism, Art and Restitution', edited by John Henry Merryman'. American Journal of Archaeology, (11) 2.3, pp 1-2.

Tythacott, Louise (1997) 'Review of Valery M. Garrett, 'Chinese Clothing: an illustrated guide''. The China Quarterly, (151), pp 682-684.


Tythacott, Louise (2005) 'Asia Gallery (part of the World Cultures Gallery)'.

Tythacott, Louise (1996) 'Land of Tempests: New Art from Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua'.

Tythacott, Louise (1996) 'The Impossible Science of Being: Dialogues Between Anthropology and Photography'.

Tythacott, Louise (1995) 'Hold: Recent Work by Shirley Chubb'.

Tythacott, Louise (1995) 'Fetishism: Visualising Power and Desire'.

Tythacott, Louise (1994) 'Kinyozi: The Art of African Hairstyles'.

Tythacott, Louise (1993) 'Textiles from Burma'.


This list was last generated on Sunday, 20th September 2020, 05:39 Europe/London.