UMAC Journal
Encountering Limits: The University Museum - Proceedings of the 12th Conference of the International Committee of ICOM for University Museums and Collections (UMAC), Singapore, 10stû12th October 2012
Nathalie Nyst, Peter Stanbury, Cornelia Weber (Eds.)
6/2013/
ISSN 2071-7229

Begin

Abstract

Introduction

Methods

Composition of university ...

Resources

Collections

Visitors

Policy & mission

Limitation

Conclusion

Acknowledgements

Literature cited

Contact

APPENDIX I - Survey form

APPENDIX II - Comparison ...

APPENDIX III - Details of ...


Startpage

The first survey of university museums in Thailand

Yingyod Lapwong

Abstract

The first university in Thailand was founded in 1917. After nearly a century, the number of universities has risen to 120 in 2012. These universities have established a diverse variety of museums in order to accomplish their specific missions. There have not however been any reviews of university museums in Thailand. Therefore, this study aimed to accumulate basic information about Thailand’s university museums in terms of general characteristics, administrative structure, current status and limitations; the results of this can be analyzed for trends and suggest not only the current status of the university museum sector, but also avenues for new lines of enquiry.

Contact to the author:

Yingyod LapwongScientist, Museologist
Address: Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Natural History Museum, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, 90110, Thailand
E-mail: yingyod.l(at)hotmail.com
www.nhm.psu.ac.th/museum_en/



Introduction

Since the founding of the first university in Thailand in 1917, the number of universities has risen to 120 in 2012 (OHEC 2012). Within many of these universities are university museums, yet there has never been a review of university museums in Thailand before the present study. The aim of this survey is to collate and understand this sector in terms of characteristics, administrative structure, current status and limitations. To accomplish the objective, basic information about university museums was initially roughly extracted from two sources: (a) the Local Museum Database and (b) by exploring university websites. Thereafter, specific information was collected by mail, phone or personal communication.

Only 71 out of 120 universities were identified as having their own museum(s). Universities lacking a museum are usually younger than 20 year-old, so might not have enough resources to establish a museum. Despite the low number of museum-hosting universities, the number of museums was high; 171 university museums were identified. For the purpose of this survey the museums were divided into six categories, namely Humanities & Social Science, Arts, Natural History, Science & Technology, Memorial Hall & Archive and Biography. As a result of the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment’s (ONESQA) policy, anthropological museums, sub-category of Humanities, contributed the largest number. The ONESQA has set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess quality of universities in Thailand (ONESQA 2012). One of the KPIs indicators is the level of culture promotion, accordingly, many universities established museum-like ‘cultural centers’ to respond this KPI. In addition, the result showed that the number of museums in a university potentially corresponded to the university’s ranking; the more museums, the better rank.

Furthermore, as will be discussed in this paper, the survey revealed that most museums lack good organization and get insufficient of human resources and adequate funding. However, the lack of policy, knowledge and experience also causes significant problems. More understanding about museum management, clear operating policies and collaboration between institutes are needed to solve this situation.

Methods

Initially, basic information of university museums in Thailand was collated from an existing database. In 2005, the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropological Centre published a database of museums in Thailand called Local Museum Database. This online database gathered information of local museums from multimedia, including newspapers, magazines, brochures and webpages. It groups museums by several criteria, including content, location and responsible person. By using responsible person criteria, university museums are put together with school museums into a group of museums managed by educational institutes. Names, types of collection and contact information were easily obtained from this database. Nevertheless, this digital database did not provide clear sources and dates of data achievements, furthermore it is out-of-date because several new museums have been founded in recent years. Therefore, a web search of official websites of the 120 universities in Thailand was undertaken although it was recognized that some small and new museums might not be mentioned in both the database and websites. Pearce and Simpson (2010) suggested that this condition would not contribute much impact to the research because those few museums would not significantly change the trends of data. After basic information of most of the university museums in the country was collected, a survey form was developed by the author and sent to a responsible person from each museum by mail (app. I).

Composition of university museums in Thailand

In this study, 172 university museums in 71 Thai universities were noted from the database and websites. However, the Gem and Jewelry Museum was then excluded because this museum is actually managed by a public organization despite its location in a campus of Chulalongkorn University, giving the final number of 171 museums. The quantity of museums in a university ranges from 1 to 23 (table 1).

Table 1 - Number of university museums in each of the 71 universities in Thailand (* RU = Rajabhat University ** RMUT = Rajamangala University of Technology)
No. of museum
University
Abbr.
No. of museums
University
Abbr.
23
Mahidol University
MU
1
Maejo University
MJU
20
Chulalongkorn University
CU
1
Maha Sarakham RU
RMU
16
Kasetsart University
KU
1
Muban Chom Bueng RU
MCRU
8
Chiang Mai University
CMU
1
Nakhon Pathom RU
NPRU
8
Prince of Songkla University
PSU
1
Nakhon Sawan RU
NSRU
5
Mahasarakham University
MSU
1
Nakhon Si Thammarat RU
NSTRU
5
Naresuan University
NU
1
North Eastern University
NCU
5
Suranaree University of Technology
SUT
1
Phetchabun RU
PCRU
5
Thammasat University
TU
1
Phranakhon RU
PNRU
4
Mae Fah Luang University
MFU
1
Phranakhon Si Ayutthaya RU
ARU
3
Hatyai University
HU
1
Phuket RU
PKRU
3
Khon Kaen University
KKU
1
Pibulsongkram RU
PSRU
3
Silpakorn University
SU
1
RMUT Isan
RMUTI
2
Burapha University
BUU
1
RMUT Krungthep
RMUTK
2
Chiang Mai RU
CMRU
1
RMUT Lanna
RMUTL
2
Nakhon Ratchasima RU
NRRU
1
RMUT Srivijaya
RMUTRV
2
Payap University
NEU
1
RMUT Thanyaburi
RMUTT
2
Sripatum University
SPU
1
Rambhaibarni RU
RBRU
2
Thaksin University
TSU
1
Ramkhamhaeng University
RU
1
Bangkok University
BU
1
Rangsit University
SRU
1
Bansomdejchaopraya RU
BSRU
1
Sakon Nakhon RU
SNRU
1
Buri Ram RU
BRU
1
South-East Asia University
SAU
1
Chiang Rai RU
CRU
1
Srinakharinwirot University
SWU
1
Christian University
CTU
1
Suan Dusit Rajabhat University
SDU
1
Dhonburi RU
DRU
1
Suan Sunandha RU
SSRU
1
Dhurakij Pundit University
DPU
1
Suratthani RU
SRU
1
Eastern Asia University
EAU
1
Surin RU
SRRU
1
Huachiew Chalermprakiet University
HCU
1
Thepsatri RU
TRU
1
Kamphaeng RU
KPRU
1
Ubon Ratchathani RU
UBRU
1
Kanchanaburi RU
KRU
1
Ubon Ratchathani University
UBU
1
King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang
KMITL
1
Udon Thani RU
UDRU
1
King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok
KMUTNB
1
University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce
UTCC
1
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
KMUTT
1
Valaya Alongkorn RU
VRU
1
Krirk University
1
Vongchavalitkul University
VU
1
Lampang RU
LPRU
1
Walailak University
WU
1
Loei RU
LRU

Interestingly, an initial reading of the number of museums in a university potentially corresponds to the university’s ranking by Quacquarelli Symonds (2012) and SCImago Research Group (2012); the more museums, the higher rank (table 2). There are several plausible explanations of this phenomenon. First, the universities with a higher ranking have more academic output, which may be conducive to the establishment of museums. Inversely, the higher rank of a university is an outcome of publications, which is supported by museums.

Table 2 - Correlation between the number of university museums and the university’s ranking
University
No. of museums
Ranked by
No. of museums
QS Asian University Rankings 20121
SIR World Report 20122
Mahidol University
23
1
1
2(,9,12)3
Chulalongkorn University
20
2
2
1
Kasetsart University
16
3
8=
4
Chiang Mai University
8
4=
3
3
Prince of Songkla University
8
4=
5
5
Thammasat University
5
6=
4
10
Khon Kaen University
3
11=
7
7
Burapha University
2
14=
8=
n/a
King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang
1
20=
n/a
8
King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi
1
20=
6
6
Walailak University
1
20=
10
n/a

According to the information collected, university museums in Thailand were divided in to six categories, namely:

  1. Humanities & Social Science – this kind of museum represents human condition and society. Artifacts and exhibitions on display in the museums imply evolution and creation of mankind. Humanities & Social Science were divided into 3 sub-categories, including Anthropology, Archeology and History.
  2. Arts – Art galleries and art museums allow visitors to appreciate artworks on the university premises. The gallery focuses on aesthete while the museum mainly expresses history of arts. Additionally, there are also museums about music and architecture, which are included in this category.
  3. Natural History – natural history museums transform the world of nature into tangible exhibitions. Also, another distinctive role of the museums is to support scientific research as reference collections. Natural history museums were simply divided into four sub-categories: Biology, Geology, Living Museum (Zoo, Botanical Park and Aquarium) and General Natural History.
  4. Science & Technology – science and technology museums may offer similar content to natural history museums but usually focus more on the history of science, invention of technology and modern innovation. Their collections were not primarily developed to support research – but rather, document the process. Many science and technology museums display interactive exhibitions without any real artifacts. In Thai universities, science and technology museums cover medical science, pharmaceutical science, veterinary science, dental science and technology.
  5. Memorial Hall & Archive – memorial halls and archives preserve the history of institutes in exhibitions and collections. Memorial halls usually outlining history while archives commonly conserve significant documents relating to the institutions.
  6. Biography – biographical museums display personal information of particular people. In general, this kind of museum is devoted to founders and patrons of institutions, sometimes called ‘Halls of Fame’. They contain the biographies and achievements of people who have made a useful contribution to the institute.

As a result of the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment’s (ONESQA) policy, anthropological museums, sub-category of Humanities & Social Science, contributed the largest number (49 museums). The ONESQA has set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess quality of universities in Thailand. One of the KPIs indicates the ability to promote culture; accordingly, many universities established museum-like ‘cultural centers’ to respond this KPI (ONESQA 2012).

In total, there are 61 museums in Humanities & Social Science, 9 museums in Arts, 32 museums in Natural History, 17 museums in Science & Technology, 34 museums in Memorial Hall & Archive and 18 museums in Biography (fig.1).

Despite being called ‘university museums’, they do not all report to the senior university management directly. In fact, some museums report to faculties, departments or other centers. Indeed, often the museums run under offices that have equal status to a faculty; such as central libraries and cultural centers. The possible reason behind this situation is that the museums are not large enough to run as dependent units under senior university management. Furthermore, the content of the museums are specifically related to teaching and research activities; thus, they need specialists from the faculty to look after collections and exhibitions. Due to insufficient funding support, museums appear to have limited opportunity to sit within a department and so faculties have become the predominant organizations to operate university museums.

Fig. 1 - Number of Thailand’s university museums in each category (171 in total)


In this study, 81 museums from 43 universities sent back the survey forms, a return rate of just over 47%. However, some museums were managed as museum complexes, including the Mahidol University museum complex under the Library and Information Center and the museum complex under the Institute of Mekong-Salween Civilization Studies, Naresuan University, thus, a single survey was answered to represent each group of museums. In addition, the Princess Mother Memorial Center, Mae Fah Luang University returned a blank response due to its current status: under-construction and renovation. The Suranaree University of Technology Archives is also part of the Memorial Hall of Suranaree University of Technology. After removing these inactive responses from the collected data, 72 feedback forms were used as samples in this research. The samples were in a similar ratio to the total numbers (app. II). Therefore, the samples could, in all probability, represent all university museums in Thailand.

Resources

Infrastructure

People generally define a museum as buildings that houses collections and exhibit them to public (Alexander & Alexander 2008). Correspondingly, 70 from 72 museums in this survey are displaying at least one exhibition in their spaces; permanent, temporary or both. However, less than half of these museums have their own administrative offices, laboratories, database facilities or collection rooms. This means that many museums are putting up all of their collections in exhibition areas or other places that exhibit environmental risks. In addition there is often no opportunity to rest vulnerable objects or to work on conservation issues away from the exhibition spaces

Finance

Many of university museums face financial and administrative limitations (Davis 1976; Hutterer 2005; Silverman & Sinopoli 2011). The result of this study showed that financial status of Thai university museums may also be limited. 37 of 68 museums that participated replied that they do not have their own annual funds, and are supported occasionally by other agencies. The rest of the museums have very wide ranges of fund (from1,000 to 10,000,000 baths) (app. III).

As a non-profit organization (ICOM 2007),4 most museums cannot rely or expect income from entry fees. Of the 71 university museums in Thailand, 61 (86% – app. III) museums have free entry. The other museums have maximum entry fees of only 100 baht. It can be concluded that entry fees do not contribute much to the museums’ financial status.

Human resources

Human resources are identified as another limiting factor for university museums (Heruc 2009). Twelve university museums in this study have no permanent employee. In fact, there are only four museums hiring more than ten workers, namely the Korat Fossil Museum (55), the Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya Aquarium (25), the Art-Centre, Silpakorn University (21) and the SoutheastAsian Ceramics Museum (11) (app. III). However, there are several museums that do not operate independently but are instead parts of particular academic departments, faculties or centers. Hence, the museum’s officers do not take positions in the museums directly but undertake work in them.

In many museums, volunteer programs help to compensate human resource problems (Heruc 2009). However, volunteer programs are uncommon in Thai university museums; only 18 out of 69 museums have volunteers. There are three museums that have been successfully conducting volunteer programs, including the Korat Fossil Museum, the PSU Museum and the Southern Isan Cultural Center. These museums have 120, 60 and 33 participated volunteers, respectively.

Collections

Collections are a vital section of any museums (Alexander & Alexander 2008). From 72 museums, some could not define their collection sizes because they do not have databases. Living museums, like aquaria, also could not measure the precise number. There are two museums that do not own a set of artifacts; one based on exhibitions and a website, another is a gallery without a permanent collection. Finally, only 56 museums have given details about their collections sizes. The numbers of items are very varied, ranging from 10 to 300,000 items in a collection (app. III). The nature of the museum, financial and human resources appears to affect collection size.

In terms of specimen sources, averagely, the majority of specimens from 68 collections were garnered by the museums themselves (54%). In addition, donation contributed 33% of all specimens. Some museums also purchased specimens, accounting for 9%. The rest in the collections came from other minor sources (4%), including unknown sources, permanent loans, replicas and voucher specimens.

Visitors

The number of visitors appears to positively indicate a museum’s value. Therefore, museums research visitors (Bitgood & Shettel 1996; Jansen-Verbeke & Van Rekom 1996; Kotler & Kotler 2004; Everett & Barrett 2009). In this study, the number of visitors in each university museum in Thailand does not seem particularly high. Although some museums have more than 100,000 attendances annually, most of them still have less than 10,000 attendances in a year. In fact, two of the three most visited museums are actually aquariums (app. III). The result suggests that most of the museums, together with other related tourism agencies, still need to work out on marketing and public relation to increase visitation. In terms of accessibility, 68 of 71 university museums open for public at least five days a week, similar to other government offices. Among these museums, nine of them open also on Saturdays and Sundays. Additionally, most museums do not appear to target groups, and count them as just general visitors. Heruc (2009) suggested in her work that internal audiences should be targeted as a priority. University staff and students that are repeat visitors could potentially turn into loyal volunteers. However, King (2002) pointed that university students are among the most difficult visitors to engage with because they tend to spend most of their time in other activities and study classes.

Collaboration is probably one solution to build up more visitors. In case of the PSU Museum, the One Day Travel Two Cities Program was set up by a private organization in 2006 before the museum joined in 2011 (Thongpong 2011).5 This project formed traveling packages for schools in southern Thailand in order to promote educational tourism. There are various tourist destinations involving in this project, such as the Songkhla Zoo, the Thaksin Folklore Museum, the Songkhla Aquarium, etc. In the first half-year of participating (October 2011 to March 2012), 1,131 additional visitors recorded as having visited – compared to visitor numbers in a similar period prior to the commencement of this program.6

Policy & mission

To accomplish set goals, a museum needs to formulate and carry out their policies and plans (Moore 1994). 42 out of 72 museums in this study do not appear to have their own policies. This condition is probably caused by a lack of knowledge about museum management by those charged with the responsibility of these sites.

According to Warhust (1984), ICOM highlighted five general missions of a museum, which are “collecting”, “research”, “preserving”, “interpreting” and “exhibiting”, but university museums might have additional and unique missions compared to other types of museum. “Exhibition” and “specimens collection and preservation’ are still the main service of a museum, hence, nearly every museum in this study put up displays of their collections.

Fig. 2 - Number of museums working on each mission (71 answers)


In contrast with the low number of visitors, most museums stated that they are working on “public relation programs”. Another two major duties are “special event organization” and “research support”; “workshop and training”, “educational program” and “research development”, are lesser roles. The result implies that most of universities in Thailand do not employ their museums in developing research. Hence it would appear that “teaching” is not considered as a direct function of university museums in Thailand, differing from the suggestion by Lourenço (2002).

The majority of these museums highlighted their significance in strengthening the image of their universities as public educational centers. Some reported their value in supporting teaching, research, student activities, public relations, and creating institutional appreciation. Remarkably, a couple of them detailed their potential to financially support the universities.

Collaboration with other institutes or networks is an indicator of a museum’s vitality. In this study, most museums were found to associate with at least one institute either in their own universities, in local areas or other national institutes. There are only four considerably larger museums, including the Chiang Rai Art Museum, the Korat Fossil Museum, the PSU Museum and the Thaksin Folklore Museum, connecting with foreign agencies. Six out of the 61 museums reported that they have not collaborated with anyone.

Limitation

50 out of 64 museums indicated human resources and financial insufficiency as their limitation. This is unsurprising because these two problems are obviously seen in other types of museums. More than ten museums pointed out problems with their operating space and systems as problems. Others cited limited location, policy, collaboration and public relation as difficulties. Two museums thought that they had no problem.

This part of the survey implied self-recognition of problems in each museum. Hence, the human resources and financial crises were recognized easily due to their close relation to working-life. In fact, the lack of policy is probably more serious because it could lead the museum in wrong directions. Museums with good policies should be managed well under any limitations.

In the part of comment and suggestion, some respondents gave interesting ideas. One commented about collaboration and network of museums in the country. He argued that there are several existing networks with similar objectives but they are led by different organizations, so the networks are overlapping and competing. Therefore, there is no unity and effectiveness in these networks. The reason for this is that different attitudes and understandings have led museums into unconnected networks; for instance, Museum Association of Thailand focuses on traditional museums, the National Discovery Museum Institute creates networks of local museums and the National Science Museum teams up with others to promote science and technology. There is no network of university museums. Furthermore, because of the abundance and diversity of museums in Thailand, it is difficult to have a single national network. In fact, the structure of ICOM may be a useful model for a large and diverse network in Thailand.

Another respondent was worried about the policies of the universities about their museums. Museum organization is usually not the university’s priority so lack of support can be a normal situation. Universities often have misapprehensions about the function and the importance of their museums which could lead the museums in different or conflicting directions. More understanding about museum management and clear operating policies are needed to address this situation. The same respondent additionally suggested that this problem should be solved at the national level. The Office of the Higher Education Commission should define the university museum and its roles clearly so universities could understand clearly the important roles of university museums and their management.

Conclusion

University museums in Thailand are very diverse; from tiny to very large, from poor to very rich, from old to very new, from unknown to famous and from struggling to well-organized. Many university museums, no matter how big or small they are, are facing problems and limitations. The museums in this survey considered their major weaknesses to be human resources and financial support.

Lack of policy, knowledge and experience could possibly be a significant cause of other problems. A strong network is an ideal tool to help those museums with problems by communication with experienced museums. However, it is a challenge to unify and pull them together in a network due to political issues. Structures of sub-committees were suggested to strengthen the network. Knowledge of museum studies should be made available to both working and governing staff to create proper policies and understanding about university museums.

This first survey of university museums in Thailand, by highlighting limitations, suggests directions for further research and collaboration to promote the diversity and educational potential of these underutilized museums.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks are due to all university museums involved in the survey; and to the Prince of Songkla University for support. Special thanks to Gina Hammond for comments on the language. Finally, thanks Chirabodee Tejasen for all suggestion.

Literature cited

Alexander, E. P. & M. Alexander 2008. Chapter 1: What is a Museum? In: Museums in motion: An introduction to the history and functions of museums, 2nd ed. (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield), 1–19.

Bitgood, S. & H. H. Shettel 1996. An overview of visitor studies. The Journal of Museum Education 21, 3: 6–10.

Davis, G. 1976. Financial problems facing college and university museums. Curator 19, 2: 116–122.

Everett, M. & M. S. Barrett 2009. Investigating sustained visitor/museum relationships: employing narrative research in the field of museum visitor studies. Visitor Studies 12, 1: 2–15.

Hutterer, K. L. 2005. University museums and collections of natural history. In: Proceedings of the Third Conference of the International Committee for University Museums and Collections (UMAC) September 21–26, 2003, ed. P. Tirrell (Norman, Oklahoma), 17–20. edoc.hu-berlin.de/umacj/2003/hutterer-karl-17/PDF/hutterer.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013).

Jansen-Verbeke, M. & J. Van Rekom 1996. Scanning museum visitors: Urban tourism marketing. Annals of Tourism Research 23, 2: 364–375.

King, L. 2002. Engaging university students. Museologia 2: 95–100. edoc.hu-berlin.de/umacj/2001/ king-95/PDF/king.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013).

Kotler, N. & P. Kotler 2004. Can museums be all things to all people? Missions, goals, and marketing’s role. In: Reinventing the museum: Historical and contemporary perspectives on the paradigm shift, ed. G. Anderson (Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press), 167–187.

Lourenço, M. C. 2002. Are university collections and museums still meaningful? Outline of a research project. Museologia 2: 51–60. edoc.hu-berlin.de/umacj/2001/lourenco-51/PDF/lourenco.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013).

Moore, K. 1994. Introduction: museum management. In: Museum Management, ed. K. Moore (London: Routledge), 1–14.

The Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC) 2012. Higher Education Institutes under OHEC. www.mua.go.th/university.html (accessed January 12, 2012) [in Thai].

Quacquarelli Symonds 2012. QS Asian University Rankings 2012. www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/asian-university-rankings/2012 (accessed June 15, 2012).

SCImago Research Group 2012. SIR World Report 2012: Global Ranking. Scimago Institutions Ranking. www.scimagoir.com/pdf/sir_2012_world_report.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013).

Silverman, R. & C. M. Sinopoli 2011. Besieged! Contemporary political, cultural and economic challenges to museums in the academy as seen from Ann Arbor. University Museum and Collection Journal 4: 27–37. edoc.hu-berlin.de/umacj/2011/silverman-27/PDF/silverman.pdf (accessed July 1, 2013).

Warhurst, A. 1984. University Museums. In: Manual of Curatorship: A Guide to Museum Practice, ed. J. M. A. Thomson (London: Butterworths), 76–83.


Footnotes

1 Quacquarelli Symonds 2012.

2 SCImago Research Group 2012

3 Siriraj Hospital and Ramathibodi Hospital, which are parts of Mahidol University, ranked 9th and 12th, respectively.

4 International Council of Museums (ICOM) 2007. ICOM Statutes, adopted by the 22nd General Assembly (Vienna, Austria, 24 August 2007).

5 Thongpong, K. An introduction to the One Day Travel Two Cities Program (official letter). One Day Travel Two Cities Program 2011 [in Thai].

6 Lapwong, pers. comm. 2012.