The Society organised its inaugural Exhibition at the University Art Museum, Singapore in 1971. This landmark exhibition featured 350 examples of Khmer, Annamese and early Thai pottery, drawn largely from the university’s collection built by its curator, William Willetts. A substantial number of pieces also came from the collections of Helen Ling, the society’s first president, Don Sinclair and other members of the first council.
The historian John Guy noted that this “presentation of the then little known ceramic tradition of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam caused a stir amongst the oriental ceramic cognoscenti.” Furthermore, “the Willetts pioneering Catalogue for the Society inspired a generation of younger scholars and stimulated the interest of government archaeological departments throughout Southeast Asia.” As a consequence, ceramic societies emerged in ensuing years in West Malaysia, Jakarta, Manila and Hong Kong, following the lead of the Singapore chapter.
A further 10 exhibitions were held between 1971 and 2009, and in 1999 the Society announced the launch of an annual William Willetts Lecture, to be held immediately after the Society’s Annual General Meeting.
In 2009, the society celebrated its 40th anniversary by publishing a work that encapsulated the progress made in the study of Southeast Asian ceramics (Southeast Asian Ceramics: New Light on Old Pottery) and arranging an exhibition of the same name held at the NUS Museum, Singapore.
In 2019, SEACS celebrated its 50th anniversary with an extensive series of programmes including a field trip to the kiln sites of Jingdezhen and Longquan, and an exhibition in the National Library of Singapore that featured representative ceramic items from each of the society’s exhibitions since 1969.
We look forward to our next fifty years.