When a friend asked me the other day whether I would like to join him for a visit to a museum, my immediate response lacked enthusiasm. My imagination conjured up a mental picture of an echoing hall filled with dusty exhibits, faded black-and-white photographs and elderly guides with droning voices. However, when we arrived at the Baan Kanean Museum my forebodings were immediately dispelled. The whole ambience of the museum is soothing and relaxing. It is a place to learn about the local people’s intellectual legacy in the context of their traditional way of life. I found it absolutely fascinating and endearing. All museums should be like this!
The project was created by a co-operative of local people in 1994, on a four rai plot of land. One rai is about sixteen hundred square metres. The land was originally the site of a temple (Kanean Temple) which dates back more than 150 years. For some reason the temple was abandoned and the buildings fell into disrepair. There were three pagodas in all, which housed a number of interesting relics.
There is a statue of a Chaisri Monk. Traditionally the villagers would pay their respects and ask for blessings when they wanted to construct a new dwelling, or when they were getting married. During re-construction activities, the builders found the remains of four statues of soldiers. It is believed that these date back to the time in the nineteenth century, when the area was attacked by Burmese invaders. The menfolk were absent at the time, engaged in some other armed struggle. The ladies of Thalang took up arms and successfully defended the settlement against the invading force.
Re-construction was a collaborative effort with the men doing the heavy work and the women providing food for them. This inspired the idea of a cooking competition which has become a regular feature of the museum’s activities.
The re-construction included a new temple pavilion, restaurant, belfry, and parsonages. On completion of the work the celebrations began. After the observation of traditional worshipping rites there were tomtom parades and exhibitions of Norah dancing. This is a classical style of southern Thai dance.
In 2001 the first Abbot was appointed, authorized by the Public Hot Community, and in recognition of the temple’s need for a serene environment, the museum was moved to an adjacent site. Many local cultural legacies are preserved here. The 19 position Norahbic classical dance is taught. Old recipes for tasty dishes, like Khanom Klok pancakes, pickled fish kidney curry, ancient coffee, glutinous rice roasted in bamboo, and Khlua Kuey shrimp paste, are prepared in cooking demonstrations.
The village practices the ideals of the sufficiency economy according to the principles formulated and promoted by his Majesty the King. Vegetables and herbs are planted for home use and any surpluses are sold. In observation of this philosophy in building the spirit of community and helping others, friends and relatives who visit are requested to assist in planting, cultivation and harvesting in exchange for food and hospitality rather than financial reward.