SOAS Object and Artwork Collections

SOAS object and artwork collections

SOAS houses a collection of over 600 artworks and objects, spanning from the 12th Century to the present day. 

It represents the diverse range of subjects and regions studied at SOAS, with a primary focus on teaching, research and fostering a deeper understanding of art, culture, history, and contemporary contexts in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. 

Accessing and utilizing your SOAS Collections

Below you can browse a selection of the objects in our collections. As we continue to upload our entire collection to our website, this page will be regularly updated. Interested individuals can explore the collection online and, if an item isn’t currently on display in the SOAS Gallery, request access for further study. Contact to set up a visit.

For scholars, students, and researchers, we offer the opportunity to delve deeper into these items. If you’re interested in conducting further research or working on a dissertation or related project involving our collection, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can contact us at to arrange a visit.

The permanent exhibition of the Collections is in the Foyle Gallery within the SOAS Gallery. The objects are rotated once every three months, ensuring that students, staff, and the public encounter fresh perspectives and engage with the full collection.

About the SOAS Object and Artwork Collection

The collection has evolved organically through donations, gifts, and bequests from visiting dignitaries, SOAS staff, alumni, and individuals passionate about SOAS’s academic disciplines. A consistent thread throughout the collection’s growth from its inception to the present day, has been the deliberate selection of objects for use in teaching and research. 

Consequently, the collection encompasses a wide array of materials, production techniques, and artistic concepts. Among its holdings are modern and contemporary paintings, historic artworks, ceramics, sculptures, and metalwork. Notably, these objects play a pivotal role in both teaching and research at SOAS, serving as valuable educational resources and contributing to public displays.

History of the Collection

The origins of the SOAS Artwork & Object Collection trace back to the establishment of the School of Oriental Studies (SOS) in 1916, following the receipt of its Royal Charter. Since its inception, artworks and objects have been integral to teaching, aligning with SOS’s mission to advance academic knowledge of Asia and provide practical instruction. 

The school rapidly became instrumental in training British administrators and colonial officials for overseas service. In 1938, SOS expanded its focus to include African studies, leading to its renaming as SOAS. Over time, SOAS has evolved into a globally recognized university, addressing critical global issues and serving as a hub for teaching and research.

The SOAS Gallery, inaugurated in 1995, has hosted numerous significant international exhibitions curated by leading artists, photographers, and researchers. It now serves as the permanent home for the SOAS Object and Artwork Collection. The formalization of this diverse array of objects into a cohesive collection occurred during the 2007 launch exhibition titled ‘Objects of Instruction.’ 

Subsequently, the Foyle Special Collection Gallery was established to house the Collection. As SOAS continues to explore multifaceted and critical perspectives, the collection expands to reflect the breadth of academic inquiry undertaken at the institution.

SOAS Collections Development Policy

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