The National Archives in Honour of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej are a complete history of Thailand’s revered monarch and his monarchy
This month, "Education" invites schools to take their students to celebrate HM the King’s birthday by visiting a comprehensive exhibit at the National Archives in Honour of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (the "Rama 9 Archives").
The dramatic Rama 9 Archives, designed by Kriengkrai Sampatchalit and located in Pathum Thani province, honour His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. COURTESY OF RAMA 9 ARCHIVES
The exquisite white Thai-style repository attracts visitors from a distance as they approach this newly-constructed centre for some of our most important national treasures. "The elegant edifice was built to honour HM the King," explains Salinee Chumwan, an archivist at the site.
The structures are designed according to the style of Thai architecture prominent during the early years of the reign of King Rama 9 and were designed by Kriengkrai Sampatchalit, director-general of the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture. The archives are located on a spacious 75 rai (12 hectares) in Khlong Luang district, Pathum Thani province, about 60km north of Bangkok.
The Rama 9 Archives are under the charge of the Ministry of Culture’s Fine Arts Department, and the site was selected on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebration of HM the King’s accession to the throne. The project was proposed in 1996 and was approved by the Cabinet the following year.
According to Mrs Salinee, the primary duties of the Rama 9 Archives are to collect, store, preserve, exhibit and provide to the public material that chronicles the activities and achievements of HM the King and the Royal Family, and to document royal ceremonies and functions.
"This is the place where people can appreciate the benevolence of HM the King and learn about his personality and personal mannerisms. The exhibits show the 10 virtues of HM the King and his varied skills covering many fields. Visitors can also learn of events that occurred during HM the King’s 60-year reign," Mrs Salinee explained.
Those who perceive that an archive is a place just for storing old documents are certain to change their mind after visiting the Rama 9 Archives.One of the highlights here is a bilingual (English and Thai) exhibition on HM the King’s biography and his decades of munificence towards the Thai people.
The exhibition is showcased on an area of 9,000m2 in two three-storey buildings. The first building houses a complete compendium of HM the King’s biographical data. As visitors step into the first salon, they will encounter a video presentation that depicts HM the King’s activities throughout his 60 years on the throne. Then, the path leads into the interior of a green house that reflects the architectural style that was popular 40 years ago. The walls are decorated with HM the King’s and HM the Queen’s portraits, and magazine covers that show pictures of HM the King are displayed on a tea table. The scene replicates the atmosphere in 1971, the year of HM the King’s silver jubilee.
Mrs Salinee said that the setting reflects the people’s loyalty and love for HM the King during that period.
There are also models of three other periods: the year (1988) when His Majesty was recognised as the longest-serving King of Thailand (42 years and 22 days at that time); HM’s golden jubilee in 1996; and HM’s diamond jubilee in 2006.
These milestones are represented by period replicas of a barbershop, a grocery store and a bookshop, respectively. As a bonus, visitors can also witness models of equipment and furniture used during those periods. The next hall is painted in grey to resemble the winter’s day – Dec 5, 1927 – at the birthplace of HM the King, which was at Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the USA.
Visitors can see a replica of King Bhumibol Adulyadej Square, which was built in Cambridge to commemorate the birth of HM the King.
A corridor-like exhibition hall showcases the life of the young HM the King during the time he spent at Sra Pathum Palace. COURTESY OF RAMA 9 ARCHIVES
The King’s story continues on the second floor. There, visitors learn about HM the King’s childhood days at Sra Pathum Palace, the place where he lived after he came to Thailand in 1928.Through ample photographs, visitors can track the private life of HM the King and his brother, His Majesty King Ananda Mahidol; the tender love and care given to them by their mother, Her Royal Highness Princess Sri Nagarindra; their royal residence in Switzerland; the accession of HM the King to the throne; and his royal wedding, his coronation and his ordination as a Buddhist monk.
The third floor houses an overview of royal ceremonies, their significance, importance and protocols. Visitors can learn of such ceremonies as the changing of the robes of the Emerald Buddha, the protocol for conducting the funeral rites of past kings, and preserving royal remains, among many others.
Among his people
Visitors to the main building should allow several hours to complete that part of the tour. "It will take the whole day, if you want to thoroughly explore every exhibition hall," said Mrs Salinee.
After exploring HM the King’s biography and becoming familiar with some royal ceremonies, visitors can learn more about his initiatives for the benefit and welfare of his citizens in the next building, which also comprises three floors.
It is recommended that visitors commence their excursion from the top floor as this route explains the many royal projects by HM the King, starting with his projects at the beautiful Chitralada Palace, and learn about the products from the Royal Chitralada Projects.
The next hall explores the Royal Rainmaking Project. Archive visitors can witness a short demonstration of the rainmaking process and learn terms of art related to rainmaking, such as "agitation", "fattening" and "bombardment".There are also exhibitions about HM the King’s initiatives on water management and sufficiency economy.Of particular interest are the exhibits that detail HM the King’s contributions to education.
There are examples of HM the King’s benevolent activities on education in remote areas, royal-sponsored scholarships, and other royal visions.
An outstanding feature of the exhi-bition at the Rama 9 Archives is that related archival materials, such as HM the King’s speeches, photographs and news articles about him, are also on display.
For example, in the education zone, visitors are able to read the first royal address delivered to students at Chulalongkorn University on May 21, 1950.
The same hall showcases the artistic accomplishments of HM the King, which include paintings, sculptures, photographs, music and literature.On the second floor, visitors can learn more about HM the King’s public health initiatives, such as the Vejapah vessel, the first medical mobile boat of the Thai Red Cross Society and the royal-sponsored Mobile Dental Unit.
Next to the exhibits on public health services are HM the King’s contributions to the military, the border patrol police force and village scouts, and information on the role of the constitutional monarch and his involvement in fostering international relations.
The exhibition concludes with items highlighting HM the King’s projects for the people in all four quadrants of Thailand. In this section, visitors can learn about the royal-initiated Development Study Centres, which are located in six provinces across the country, The Royal Hill Tribe Development Project in the north, royal-initiated projects in the south and many other initiatives.
The Rama 9 Archives is an exhibitor and curator of priceless royal artefacts.
The material provided includes royal speeches, addresses, writings, photographs and other forms of royal thought. There are also documents and audio-visual materials relating to projects by the government, corporate and private sectors in response to HM the King’s initiatives and in honour of His Majesty. Currently, there are a total of approximately 25,000 individual lists that collectively contain tens of thousands of archival items. Researchers who wish to study artefacts must request permission from the Fine Arts Department and specify their purpose.
An innovative aspect of the Rama 9 Archives is the use of information technology to assist researchers in their efforts to locate data and to help archivists in the task of data management. According to Mrs Salinee, this is the first archive in Thailand to have such a complete tracking and location system.
"Our future plans will enable users to request materials via the internet without having to be physically at the archives. Then, when the materials are ready for review, we inform the requesting party to come and pick them up," she said.
The Rama 9 Archives also has a library that houses books specially dedicated to HM the King and the Royal Family, as well as books published in honour of HM the King by various sectors.
Besides preserving and providing archival materials, the Rama 9 Archives is also responsible for recording significant royal and state ceremonies in written and pictorial accounts and for producing annual publications of historical events.
In a nutshell, a visit to the exhibition at the Rama 9 Archives to learn all the information available there is the perfect answer for someone wondering why the Thai people respect and love HM the King so much. "I would like to especially invite youngsters who might have heard stories about HM the King told by their parents or the media, but who do not really know the reasons why their parents are so proud of HM the King or why people in many countries also respect him. If they come and learn more about HM the King, they will definitely love the King as much as their parents and grandparents," said Mrs Salinee.
Currently, the exhibition on HM the King is only open to group visitors from organisations and education institutions. Admission is free.
Any school that wishes to take its students on a tour of the archives is invited to call 02-902-7940 or 02-920-7492, ext 103 or 113, to make arrangements in advance.Not until May 2010 will the general public be allowed entry to the exhibition.
As a bonus, nearby there is also an exhibition on Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, which is already opened to the general public at no charge.
Visit http://www.narama9.go.th for more information.