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Asian Hat Collection Donated by Barbara Park

Start Date December 2019
End Date May 2020
Venue China National Silk Museum
Location Hangzhou, China
Exhibition display of hats

Before humans roamed the earth, plants were already in place. Our ancestors relied on nature for their daily survival, and this relationship built civilisation. Leaves and twigs were made into temporary baskets to carry hunted and gathered foods. Plant materials were manipulated to make items such as mats, roofs, and walls for shelter. Eventually, plant fibres were extracted and processed into yarns, then woven into cloth to clothe us, giving birth to textile culture.

The hat collection gives us an excellent opportunity to review how plant resources around us affect our lives. Today, in a world over-supplied with colourful manufactured items, these hats, made of perishable materials, might look primitive and outdated. Through these humble hats, let us ponder again, how humans take reference from nature, and how our evolution depends on working with nature.

We have chosen sixty-six items from Barbara’s collection to highlight their provenance, materials, craft techniques and cultural stores. Paired with maps, travel souvenirs, diagrams and material samples, we hope this exhibition is colourfully light-hearted and, at the same time, educational.


The Barbara Park Asian Hat Collection of 128 items was donated to the China National Silk Museum in 2016, to enable in-depth study of crafts and appreciation of the diversity of the natural world and cultures in the region.

Barbara is an Australian entrepreneur who has lived and worked in Hong Kong for over fifty years. Her parents and grandparents have all been keen gardeners and craftspeople, so her appreciation of nature is firmly in her blood. Her favourite colour is green. For twenty-five years she had a landscaping business throughout Asia, during which the collection of hats was amassed. She also collects a variety of Asian crafts including porcelain, wood carvings, baskets and textiles.

She is a Life Member of many cultural associations, including the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Friends of the Museum, Chinese University, the Friends of the Hong Kong University Museum, The Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Gardening Society. So many handcrafts are disappearing in Barbara’s lifetime that she felt dutybound to collect and is delighted that the hats can be shared with so many visitors from Hangzhou, China, and visitors from around the world.

Image courtesy of China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China