SOAS University of London

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

Professor Louise Tythacott

BA (Kent), DipLang (University of Westminster), PhD (Manchester), SFHEA, FRHistS, FRAI
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications


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

Professor of Curating and Museology

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


Professor Louise Tythacott
Email address:
+44 (0)20 7898 4159
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
On research leave from September 2022-June 2023


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 Mandarin and Cantonese at the University of Westminster and was awarded her PhD in Museology from the University of Manchester.

Before joining SOAS, Louise was the Woon Tai Jee Professor of Asian Art at Northumbria University and the academic lead for the International Research Centre for the History and Culture of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms. Prior to this she was Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer, then Professor, of Curating and Museology of Asian Art at SOAS, and a Lecturer in Museology at the University of Manchester. Louise also worked as the Curator of Asian Collections and Head of the Non-Western Department at National Museums Liverpool. Here she was lead project curator for the World Cultures Gallery, with specific responsibilities for the Asia and Buddhism displays. She has been the curator of a private Burmese textile collection, an exhibitions officer at the Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery & Museums, Brighton, a managing editor of the journal Museum and Society – and she continues to work on museum projects and curate exhibitions.

Since 2022, Louise has served as a Trustee of the James Henry Green Charitable Trust in Brighton. This involves maintaining and providing access to a collection of Burmese textiles and artefacts housed at Brighton Museum, financing activities at the Green Centre for World Art and awarding grants to students for educational projects, mainly relating to Southeast Asia.

Louise is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Anthropological Institute.

ORCID - 0000-0001-5625-6468


  • Association for Asian Studies
  • Association of Critical Heritage Studies
  • British Association for Chinese Studies
  • Chinese Collections Group
  • European Association for Asian Art and Archaeology
  • European Association of Chinese Studies
  • Museum Ethnographers Group
  • Royal Anthropological Institute
  • Royal Asiatic Society
  • Royal Historical Society
  • Society for the History of Collecting
  • UK Association for Buddhist Studies


Programmes Convened
Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Arjmand Aziz Ahmad, Exhibiting Australian Aboriginal Contemporary art in Britain: the case of two galleries 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
  • Duyen Nguyen, Collecting and Curating Cham Art in Vietnam: from 1975 to the present.
Louise also contributes to the following courses:
  • Theory and Method in the Study of Asian and African Art
  • Arts, Culture and Commodification: Themes in the Global Creative and Cultural Industries
Previous modules created and taught:
  • Museums and Museology
  • Collecting and Collections
  • Representing China in Museums
  • Collecting and Curating Buddhist Art in the Museum
  • Museums, Anthropology and the Arts of Asia and Africa
  • Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies
Completed PhD and MPhil students:
  • Elizabeth Reid (2022) An investigation into the meaning and significance of the exhibitions of Chinese art at the Whitechapel Art Gallery between 1901 and 1934
  • Heidi Tan (2020) Meritorious Curating and the Renewal of Pagoda Museums in Myanmar.
  • Deidre Parker (2019) Tracing Buddhism in the British Museum: Biographies of Buddhist Objects
    acquired by the British Museum in the 19th - 20th c.
  • Stephanie Tredan (2018) Stuck in Limbo: The Repatriation of Unprovenanced Australian Indigenous Ancestral Remains from UK and Australian Museums.
  • Hee Jung Lee (2015) Exploring visual modernity and national identity in modern China: Fu Baoshi’s self-awareness and critical response during the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945).
  • Maria Sklirou (2009) The Issue of Access in Greek Museums.
  • Alan Arcadia (2009) An Intimate Destruction: Desire, Death and the Self in Buddhism, Surrealism and Georges Bataille.
  • Emma Poulter (2008) The West African Collections at Manchester Museum.
PhD and MPhil Examinations
  • Kate Hill (2021) Complicated Objects: Chinese Imperial Artefacts in Victorian Britain, University of Glasgow.
  • Valentina Risdonne (2021) Materials and techniques for coating of the nineteenth century plaster casts: a scientific and archival investigation of the Victoria & Albert Museum cast collection, Northumbria University.
  • Boya Zhang (2021) Exhibiting China in Durham, Durham University.
  • Yuet Heng Wong (2016) The Display of Chinese Art in Late 19th-Century French Houses and Museums, University of Hong Kong.
  • Emily Williams (2016) Collecting the Revolution-British Engagements with Chinese Cultural Revolution Material and Visual Culture, Birkbeck, University of London.
  • Chengxi Dong (2015) The Early History of Museums in China, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
  • Julia Snape (2013) Medieval Art on Display 1750-2010, University of Manchester.
  • James Pardoe (2011) Homes and Haunts: Memorialising Romantic Writers, University of Manchester.
  • Klem James (2010) Non-repressive sublimation and the recuperation of desire in Surrealism, University of Manchester.
  • Vivian Ting (2008) Communicating Chinese ceramics: a study of material culture theory in selected museums in Britain, University of Leicester.
  • Ian Heath (2004) The Representation of Islam in British museums, University of Manchester.


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

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. Christian and Louise are finalising a co-edited book relating to this project – Tibetan Monastery Collections and Museums: Traditional Practices and Contemporary Issues (forthcoming, 2022).

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. In 2022, she was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to complete a monograph based on this research. She will be on Research Leave from September 2022 to May 2023.


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 and Bellini, Chiara (2020) 'Deity and Display: Meanings, Transformations, and Exhibitions of Tibetan Buddhist Objects'. Religions, (11) 3.

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: a journal of the arts, (169) 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

Luczanits, Christian and Tythacott, Louise, (eds.), (2022) Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections and Museums. Kathmandu: Vajra Academic Publishers. [Forthcoming]

Tythacott, Louise and Ardiyansyah, Panggah, (eds.), (2021) Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution.. Singapore: NUS Press. (Art and Archaeology of Southeast Asia: Hindu-Buddhist Traditions).

Tythacott, Louise, (ed.), (2017) 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 (2023) 'Transforming Chemrey 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 and Lei, Shichun (2023) 'Collections of Yuanmingyuan Artworks in British and French Museums'. Perfect Brightness: Garden Art and the Qing Court. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Palace Museum. [Forthcoming]

Tythacott, Louise (2023) '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]

Luczanits, Christian and Tythacott, Louise (2022) 'Monastery and Museum in Ladakh and Mustang'. In: Luczanits, Christian and Tythacott, Louise, (eds.), Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections and Museums. Kathmandu: Vajra Academic Publishers, pp 27-87.

Luczanits, Christian and Tythacott, Louise (2022) 'Introduction'. In: Luczanits, Christian and Tythacott, Louise, (eds.), Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections and Museums. Kathmandu: Vajra Academic Publishers, pp 13-25.

Tythacott, Louise and Ardiyansyah, Panggah (2021) '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, pp 1-37.

Tythacott, Louise and Chea, Socheat and Muong, Chanraksmey (2021) '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, pp 62-86.

Tythacott, Louise (2020) 'Military Histories of ‘Summer Palace’ objects from China in military museums in the United Kingdom'. In: Lidchi, Henrietta and Allan, Stuart, (eds.), Dividing the Spoils: Perspectives on Military Collecting and the British Empire. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp 187-204.

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 (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'. In: Hill, Kate, (ed.), Museums and Biographies: Stories, Objects, Identities. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, pp 173-185.

Tythacott, Louise (2010) 'The Politics of Representation in Museums'. In: Bates, Marcia J., (ed.), 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'. In: Shelton, Anthony, (ed.), 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) 'Musical Instruments'. In: Tythacott, Louise, (ed.), Musical Instruments. Hove: Wayland Publishers, pp 1-48.

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'. In: O'Neill, Cynthia and Casterton, Peter and Headlam, Catherine, (eds.), Kingfisher Book of Mythology. London: Larousse, pp 100-125.

Tythacott, Louise (1995) 'Dance'. In: Tythacott, Louise, (ed.), Dance. 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'. In: Tythacott, Louise, (ed.), 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, 2nd October 2022, 09:31 Europe/London.