News & events > ASEF Unplugged Singapore: "The Role of Museums in the 21st Century"
26 Mar 2019 - 26 Mar 2019

ASEF Unplugged Singapore: "The Role of Museums in the 21st Century"

In the context of the ASEF Unplugged series of debates on cultural issues, a discussion entitled "The role of museums in the 21st century" will take place on 26 March at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, an ASEMUS member. The conversation will involve 3 museum directors, including:
  • Ann Follin, Director General, National Museums of World Culture, Sweden
  • Manuel Rabaté, Director, Louvre Abu Dhabi, France / United Arab Emirates
  • Kennie Ting, Director, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore
The debate will be moderated by Anupama Sekhar, Director for Culture at the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).

Themes and background

As repositories of collections and works, and as centres of learning and knowledge open to the public, the role of museums changes as societies evolve. In recent years, many museums have increasingly promoted participatory activities, used technology to digitise and present their collections, collaborate among them and enable more active user engagement, and have reflected on their social and educational value. In many places, museums can be seen to contribute to strategies in economic development and in urban and regional regeneration and sustainability. From an external perspective, they also face increasing demands to be accountable and to respond to social and political issues, as recent debates on colonialism and the return of objects, and on private sponsorship of exhibitions have shown. How does the function of museums change when information and knowledge, from all sorts and in many formats, become increasingly widespread? How can they compete with the extensive offer of cultural, educational and leisure activities available in our cities and countries? What are the drivers and the challenges for collaboration and partnership with other stakeholders, including schools, community groups, and public authorities? As public funding decreases in many countries, what are the implications of reliance on private sponsorship, e.g. in terms of programming and accessibility? How can museums continue to balance continuity and change, in a world that is constantly evolving? What priorities can be established for international museum cooperation in this context? These are some of the questions that will be addressed at the 13th edition of ASEF Unplugged, a discussion on the role of museums in the 21st century. The conversation is part of the 'ASEF Unplugged – Conversations on the Arts in Asia and Europe' event-series, an initiative of ASEF, which offers open and authentic peer-to-peer conversations on themes of mutual interest.  This 13th edition of ASEF Unplugged results from the partnership between ASEF and the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM). Some of the museums involved are members of ASEMUS, including its current chair, the ACM, and which ASEF has supported since its inception in 2000.

Further information

For additional information, please refer to the accompanying programme or visit
In case you are not able to attend, we are happy to inform that the discussion will be streamed live on ASEMUS' Facebook page, on Tuesday 26 March at 7pm Singapore time.