Conservation and exhibition of the rare traditional costumes of Shan Sawbwas in the National Museum Yangon, Myanmar

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One of the displays in the Exhibition of the Rare Traditional Costumes of Shan Sawbwas, National Museum Yangon, 9th-18th June 2019. Images courtesy of the National Museum Yangon.

The first National Museum in Myanmar was established at Jubliee Hall, Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Yangon in 1952. After being shifted from the Jubliee Hall to Grindlays Bank on Pansodan Road, Yangon in 1970, the National Museum Yangon was inaugurated in the present location—No. 66/74 Pyay Road, Dagon Township, Yangon Region in Myanmar—on 18th September 1996. The Museum has played an active role in the conservation of costumes from the Nyaung Shwe Cultural Museum in Taunggyi; old paintings from the Dawei Shin Mote Htee Pagoda, the Taninthayee Region and the Botahtaung Pagoda; the Yangon Region; other museums; and private collections since 2017. It encourages the gathering and exchange of information and knowledge about textiles, paintings, and other artifacts, with special attention being given to the National Museum Yangon’s preservation, conservation, and documentation.

Restoration, repair, remedial conservation, preventive conservation, and preservation are just some of the terms used to promote the safe-keeping of cultural property. Costumes have been kept for historic, artistic, economic, cultural, social, religious, and emotional reasons.

A number of costumes in the Nyaung Shwe Cultural Museum, though not passed on through family, have been received as valuable tribute dresses from ancient Myanmar Kings and others; these costumes are made of brocaded silk satin, velvet, cotton, tapestry, gold and silver sequins, and tinsel cloth. When preserving historical costumes, remedial measures are taken to support fragile and damaged silk in order to make it last longer by making it stronger. Conservation was carried out with great skill; for example, the darning of holes and worn out areas. The methods we used included securing the damage to a support fabric with laid couching stitches and spaced brick couching and covering the damage with silk attached with running stitches. To restore tapestries and damaged brocaded velvet, damaged areas were cut out and replaced with pieces of the same or similar tapestry and brocaded velvet.

After the conservation of these rare traditional costumes of Shan Sawbwas from the Nyaung Shwe Cultural Museum, the National Museum Yangon arranged the first special exhibition on the Shan Sawbwas’ costumes from 9th-18th June 2019. Historical costumes play an important role in the collections of many museums worldwide; they are exhibited to reflect a country’s history, society, traditions and ceremonies, or a single person’s story. The Museum’s costume exhibition is a treasure trove of inspiration. The National Museum Yangon aims to make each exhibition entertaining for new and seasonal visitors alike and aspires to become an institution that can contribute to a new cultural landscape. This is why the Museum resolves to progress hand-in-hand with the community and society. This exhibition in the National Museum is not only triggering visitors’ curiosity, but it is also a fascinating exhibition for the study of the dresses because of their ethnic identity and high fashion design.

Kyaw Shin Naung
Assistant Director,
National Museum Yangon, Myanmar

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After the conservation of these rare traditional costumes of Shan Sawbwas from the Nyaung Shwe Cultural Museum, the National Museum Yangon arranged the first special exhibition on the Shan Sawbwas’ costumes from 9th-18th June 2019. Historical costumes play an important role in the collections of many museums worldwide; they are exhibited to reflect a country’s history, society, traditions and ceremonies, or a single person’s story.
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