There is a museum that opened in Bangkok around a decade ago called the Museum Siam (some people call it the Discovery Museum). It was designed by Thai academics (and some very famous ones).

It was meant to be “cutting edge” in its use of multimedia and in the ways that it allowed for an “interactive” experience. However, technology has changed so fast that it now does not necessarily feel that way.

Nonetheless, there is one way in which this museum was meant to be cutting-edge that does still feel that way, and that is in the message that the museum presents to visitors.

What this museum wants its Thai visitors to do, is to question who they are. And in particular, it wants them to question the nationalist representation/interpretation of Thailand and “Thainess” that they have learned in schools and through the media.

sdfilm

When you enter the museum, the first thing you do is to watch a video that is projected onto a curved screen. I wish the museum would post that video on YouTube because it is a fascinating video.

In any case, the screen shot above comes from a video that some private person made about the museum, but the questions that this person has put in the film are exactly the kind of questions that the museums asks its visitors.

Looking for real Thainess.

Everyone talks about true Thainess.

Everyone thinks they know what it means.

How real is true Thainess?

What on earth does it mean?

As one then walks through the museum, one is confronted with information that challenges the idea that there is an “essence” or something “whole” that we can call “Thai-ness.”

sukho

As nationalism took hold in Thailand in the 20th century, an early kingdom called Sukhothai was “imagined” as the origin of the “Thai nation.” This was truly something that (Westernized) Thai in the 20th century imagined, and in the Museum Siam, Sukhothai is not even mentioned.

This brings me to the “Bronze Drum Museum” that I referred to in the title of this post. As far as I know, there is no such museum, but if one were to be created right now, could it be made like the Museum Siam?

Could one have a history museum in Vietnam and not mention Văn Lang (like the Museum Siam does not mention Sukhothai)? Could a museum in Vietnam ask the same questions of its visitors that the Museum Siam does?

Looking for real Việt-ness.

Everyone talks about true Việt-ness.

Everyone thinks they know what it means.

How real is true Việt-ness?

What on earth does it mean?

drum

I think that this would be impossible, so I ask such questions on this blog. And like the academics who created the Museum Siam in Bangkok, I’m not a spy for a foreign country, I don’t have a political motive, and I’m not trying to destroy a society (and, by the way, Thai nationalism is still alive and well in Thailand ten years after that museum opened its doors. . .).

The only thing that is happening in the Museum Siam and on this blog is that intelligent people (well I might not fit in that category, but. . .) are asking other intelligent people to think. And in both cases, it’s clear that intelligent people like being asked to think.

So let’s all keep thinking together.