Alexandra Denes
Former Senior Research Associate, SAC
James Todd Millar
Foreign Relations Officer, SAC

The Role of the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre

The Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (SAC) is a public organization under the supervision of the Thai Ministry of Culture. Established in 1989, the Centre’s primary mission is to promote understanding among peoples through the study of human societies. SAC’s activities fall within three main program areas: documentation, research, and public education and outreach. Geographically, SAC’s program activities focus on Thailand and the Greater Mekong Sub-region, with the broad aim of fostering tolerance and cross-cultural awareness in the region through anthropological research and public education.

Local Museums Research and Development Project

One of the Centre’s flagship research projects is the Local Museums Research and Development Project. Recognizing the vital role of local museums as repositories of Thailand’s local history and culture, in 2005, the SAC began the project of surveying all the museums in Thailand for inclusion in a searchable, digital database. Concurrently, the SAC launched collaborative, action research and development projects with three local museums: Wat Lai Hin Luang Museum in Lampang Province, The Wat Baan Don Museum of Nang Yay Shadow Puppetry in Rayong Province, and The Wat Tha Phut Museum in Nakhon Pathom Province.

Weaving kluaiy teen chang for the Salak Yom ceremony © SAC

These collaborative projects involved a range of research, capacity-building, and knowledge-sharing activities. To share experiences and lessons learned from the first three pilot projects in local museum management, the SAC launched a series of regional museum network meetings aimed at building regional support networks among museum organizers. In addition, the Local Museums Research and Development Project publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled Moving Forward Together (Kaaw Pay Duaykan) to provide yet another forum for sharing knowledge among members of the local museum community network.

Moreover, the Local Museums Research and Development Project initiated the Local Museums Festival in 2008; the festival brings together local museum organizers to tell their stories of collecting and to share experiences of museum work and also offers an excellent opportunity for the public to learn more about Thailand’s cultural diversity through its wide variety of museums.

The Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Field School Program

From 2009 to 2011, the SAC launched the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Field School, in response to the need, and as part of its commitment to the expansion of anthropological research and knowledge in Thailand and the region, aimed at providing hands-on training in ethnographic approaches to museum and heritage practitioners in the Asia-Pacific.
The Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Field School program—a two-week, intensive training program open to recent university graduates, museum practitioners, mid-career professionals, educators, and others involved in the heritage field. Developed in partnership with UNESCO Bangkok and the Asian Academy for Heritage Management, the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Field School program aims to equip participants with both the conceptual and practical tools to actively engage with intangible heritage issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

For three consecutive years since 2009, the SAC’s Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museums Field School program has offered anthropological frameworks for researching, documenting, and working collaboratively with communities to safeguard their intangible heritage. Through a field practicum with four communities in Lamphun Province, participants gained hands-on experience in applying anthropological tools and frameworks to research intangible culture.

Our Utmost Objective

The objective to promote the studies of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) by the SAC is still ongoing, especially when the government issued the “Promotion and Conservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage Act, 2016”, with initiatives of compiling and improving ICH knowledge management to be used as a database for the Thai public for better understanding of ICH management. With the organizing of the Heritage of the Nations: Lesson Learned from the Neighboring Countries forum on 27 January 2017, to learn from our neighboring countries’ experiences, which could be used as data for further insight of ICH for Thai society. After the discussions, the SAC will be publishing a summary of the forum. In addition, it will be translating “Intangible Heritage and the Museum: New Perspectives on Cultural Preservation” for comprehension and awareness of ICH’s significance to the Thai public. Considering that the SAC is one of the organizations in Thailand that continuously works with ICH, with the objective to enhance further recognition and value of ICH as a means of fostering awareness of the significance of multiculturalism, which is the SAC’s utmost objective.