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Prof Louise Tythacott


Department: Arts

Louise joined Northumbria University in 2020 as the Woon Tai Jee Professor of Asian Art and was previously Pratapaditya Pal Professor in Curating and Museology of Asian Art at SOAS. Prior to this she taught museology at the University of Manchester and was Curator of Asian collections and Head of the Non-Western department for the National Museums Liverpool. She has worked as a Curator of a private Burmese textile collection, an Exhibitions Officer at the Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery & Museums, Brighton, and a Managing Editor of the peer-reviewed journal, “Museum and Society”. She continues to work on museum projects and curate exhibitions.


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 Chinese at the University of Westminster and holds a PhD from the University of Manchester.

Research interests

Louise’s research focuses on the collecting and display of Chinese and Buddhist art in museums. She has recently published a co-edited volume with Panggah Ardiyansyah, “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums and Restitution” (NUS Press, 2021) and is working on an edited volume with Christian Luczanits and Chiara Bellini, "Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Collections and Museums". 

In 2016, with Christian Luczanits (PI), Louise was awarded an AHRC Research Grant of £356, 759 for a three-year project (2016-19) to investigate Tibetan Buddhist monastery collections in Mustang (Nepal) and Ladakh.

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, and is presently completing a monograph on the “Summer Palace Diaspora”.

Louise is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Royal Asiatic Society. She maintains her links with SOAS as a Professorial Research Associate:

At Northumbria, she leads the International Research Centre for the History and Culture of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms:

She is also a member of the Visual and Material Cultures research group:





Louise Tythacott

Key Publications

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Deity and Display: Meanings, Transformations, and Exhibitions of Tibetan Buddhist Objects, Tythacott, L., Bellini, C. 27 Feb 2020, In: Religions
  • Returning Southeast Asia's Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution, Tythacott, L., Ardiyansyah, P. Jan 2021
  • Introduction: Collecting and Returning Southeast Asia’s Past, Tythacott, L., Ardiyansyah, P. Jan 2021, Returning Southeast Asia's Past, Singapore, NUS Press
  • The Looting of Koh Ker and the Return of the Prasat Chen Statues, Tythacott, L., Chea, S., Muong, C. Jan 2021, Returning Southeast Asia's Past, Singapore, NUS Press
  • Military Histories of 'Summer Palace' Objects from China, Tythacott, L. 2020, Dividing the Spoils: Perspectives on Military Collecting and the British Empire, Manchester, Manchester University Press
  • Transforming Chemde Museum: Monastic Curating and Co-Curating in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh, Tythacott, L. 2021, The Museum in Asia, London, Routledge
  • Curiosity, Loot and Art: A Brief History of Collecting Chinese objects in the West, Tythacott, L. 2019, The MAO: The Museum and the East, Artists book of the Museum of Oriental Art (MAO), Turin, Turin, MAO
  • Problems, Practices, and Politics of Provenancing Objects from China’s Yuanmingyuan, Tythacott, L. 1 Oct 2019, Collecting and Provenance: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach, Lanham; Boulder; New York; London, Rowman & Littlefield
  • Collecting and Displaying China's 'Summer Palace' in the West: The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France, Tythacott, L. 25 Oct 2017
  • The Yuanmingyuan and its Objects, Tythacott, L. 25 Oct 2017, Collecting and Displaying China's 'Summer Palace' in the West: The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France, New York, NY, Routledge

Professional Activity

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: Tibetan Monastery Collections and Museums 2018
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: The Yuanmingyuan in Britain and France 2013
  • Other: Managing Editor, Museum and Society 2011
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: Museums and Restitution 2010
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: ‘Arts Premiers’ 1998

PGR Supervision

So Ching Wong Buddhist material culture in the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms- A study of bronzewares from 7th to 13th centuries Start Date: 01/10/2020

Further Information


Current PhD students: 

So Ching Wong, Bronze Casting in Southwest China: A study of bronze statues from the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms. Start: 01/10/2020.
Elizabeth Reid, An investigation into the meaning and significance of the exhibitions of Chinese art held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery between 1901 and 1934. Start: 01/10/2015.
Completed PhD students:
Heidi Tan (2020) Meritorious Curating and the Renewal of Pagoda Museums in Myanmar
Dierdre Parker (2019) Tracing Buddhism in the British Museum: Biographies of Buddhist Objects acquired by the British Museum in the 19th and 20th centuries
Stephanie Tredan (2018) Stuck in transit: The future of unknown Australian Indigenous Human Remains and claims for the return of Human Remains perceived as Cultural Material.  
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 examinations:

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.

Kate Hill (2021) Complicated Objects: Chinese Imperial Artefacts in Victorian Britain, University of Glasgow.

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.




  • History of Art PhD November 22 2012
  • Language Studies (other/general) Advanced Diploma May 21 1992
  • Social Anthropology BA (Hons) May 21 1989

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