Bangkok Post reviews
Lighting the way
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: July 25, 2013 at 8:50 am
Yusuksuwan Museum preserves rare paraffin lamps and antique collectables for future generations
Starting out as a hobbyist collecting old items about 40 years ago, Narong Yusuksuwan, a scrap-metal dealer, has opened his private Yusuksuwan Museum to showcase his beloved collections in Muang District of Prachin Buri.
The highlights are pressurised paraffin lamps, which are hung all over the ceilings in many buildings of this museum.
"During the first year of operation in 2007, a Japanese visitor offered to buy one of our lamps for 1 million baht," said the museum manager Kittipong Yusuksuwan, the owner's son. The offer was refused.
"My father reasoned that if we sold it, no one would be able to see this ceiling paraffin lamp because it is possible that this is the only one of its kind available in Thailand," he said.
The antique lamp was made in Germany and looks like an electric bronze ceiling light, which has a burner socket on two sides.
"The lamp is about a century old and still can function well," he said.
In addition, the museum also displays other rare pressurised paraffin lamps such as one that works as a slide projector and a lamp with a parabola side reflector to direct light in one direction. The lamp was used on boats as a spotlight.
"We have 13,001 paraffin lamps in our museum," he said, adding that most of them are imported items from various countries, mainly in Europe such as Germany and the UK.
Even today, his father still collects. Mr Narong's hobby started after he noticed that there was a high demand for old paraffin lamps.
"My father used to resell them like other used metal products," he said, adding old lamps were sold for only a few baht per kilo. But those who love antique products visited the trading site and offered higher prices for any lamp in good condition, sometimes 50 to 100 baht per item. Mr Narong enjoyed selling the old lamps until it came to him that if he had continued doing so, there would not be antique paraffin lamps for new generations to see.
With that in mind, he stopped selling them and began keeping them.
His first collectible was a German Petromax 900 Little Baby kerosene lantern made in 1950s. According to the present price on eBay, the rare item is now offered at around 27,000 baht.
"This one is special because it is a tiny lamp. My father collected it because it looks different from other typical pressurised paraffin lamps," he said. The oil lantern features only 100 candela (its luminous intensity) compared to a general lamp which has triple the power.
Mr Narong also collects other old items that he is fond of regardless of the size. His collections range from small pieces such as ancient beads up to a long wooden boat carved from a tree trunk. Encouraged by his friends and those who saw his collections about a decade ago, he decided to build the museum.
He spent about 20 million baht from his antique resale business building a cluster of Thai-style houses in his 17 rai plot of land where the business warehouse is also located.
He categorised his collections into groups and put them in separate rooms, while the small pieces are kept in teak and glass cabinets or display cupboards.
When you visit the museum, you will see not only a building dedicated to the pressurised paraffin lamps, but also other collections such as old typewriters, bicycles, weighing scales, Buddha images, tin toys, kitchenware and tableware, home appliances such as stoves, charcoal irons and an intercooler paraffin refrigerator. Some rooms show combined items such as old Thai newspapers priced at 1 baht per issue and 1 baht government lottery tickets. There are so many items that some cannot fit into the buildings, so they are displayed in an area of the car park.
As a young manager, Mr Kittipong has also added new ideas to this antique museum. He put up a sign for the location-based social networking site Foursquare to encourage visitors to check in, which helps promote the museum. He also added photogenic points decorated with colourful flowers or graphic billboards for visitors to take pictures and share them among friends via social media.
"I added those gimmicks to attract young visitors. Our museum is targeted at not only to those who love antiques, but also younger generations who can enjoy shooting photos while learning the history of these bygone items at the same time," he said.