National Archives of Thailand: Going digital with online search

National Archives of Thailand: Going digital with online search

To help students & researchers everywhere get easier access to important historical documents, the national archives in the process of putting their over 15 million documents online.

The beautiful interior of the National Archives.


National Archives of Thailand going digital with online search

Adapted from article by Pichaya Svasti

Established in 1916 as part of the National Library, the National Archives of Thailand became a division of the Fine Arts Department in 1952.

The National Archives of Thailand is moving ahead with the digitisation of documents, photos, maps and microfilms, some dating back over a century as well as enabling online searches.

Established in 1916 as part of the National Library, the National Archives of Thailand became a division of the Fine Arts Department in 1952. It is responsible for collecting and keeping public and other historical records, helping government agencies on how to manage documents and records, and facilitating research and study for students and teachers.

There are two kinds of archive materials -- written materials and audiovisual records. Audiovisual records include photos, films, videos, slides, maps, plans and more. Only archive documents dated over 25 years are accessible to the public

Each year, between 1,500-1,700 people use the National Archives of Thailand. Repeat users are mostly graduate students who need to use primary sources in their research. A number of visitors are foreigners, especially Japanese, which reflects the globalisation of academic research. Students from Silpakorn University are often found regularly doing research at the archives.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has been involved in a big way as a consultant in the national archives upgrade. She has visited numerous archives abroad and in January this year, she said to the culture minister that museums, libraries and archives in Thailand must provide modern and quick services with the help of information technology.

Viewing documents on a computer workstation will make doing research easier in the future.


Currently, researchers need to search for things manually from lists of documents, and understand the categorising system since a number of documents are classified and stored according to government ministries.

New computer programs are being installed and will be functional by next month.  At first, users will be able to search at the archives via an intranet system within the archives only. In the future, researchers will be able to search documents from home by entering the National Archives of Thailand's official website.  Eventually, even online searching via smartphones should  be available.

The library card issuance system has also been upgraded so that it takes photos of users and issues cards immediately.

National archives staff hard at work doing restoration work on documents.


The oldest document in the National Archives of Thailand dates to the reign of King Rama IV and is on paper.

In the reading room on the ground floor, users can now search for lists of the Foreign Affairs Ministry's documents, again going back over 100 years, which have been digitised and kept as PDF files. In the photos and maps room on the first floor, users can now search for a number of photos and maps. The intranet searching system has so far included 22,009 photos and 2,456 maps and plans.

The equipment for digitising microfilms is worth more than 2 million baht.

A huge task is digitising the microfilms that contain records of over 15 million written materials. The archives have only 131 staff and an annual budget of 80 million baht, so it will take time. So far, 45 microfilm rolls have been digitised and it is estimated that all of them will be ready for service next year.  The equipment for this task is worth more than 2 million baht.

[As of 2011, the National Archives of Thailand had 10,285 written documents, 24,508 wet plate collodions, 444,009 photos, 808,693 films, 20,062 maps and plans, 2,696 posters, 4,472 calendars, 4,467 audio records, 3,941 visual records, 9,503 microfilms, 734 compact discs, 34 digital visual records, 43,628 bound volumes, government documents and rare books, 1,867 meeting minutes, memos and incident records and 677,269 important news clippings.]

A huge task is digitising the microfilms that contain records of over 15 million written materials.


The archives must also make databases about the Asean community and exchange information with other Asean nations.

The new digital platform will be able to share data with all 10 branches of the national archives, including those in Chiang Mai, Phayao, Ubon Ratchathani and Songkhla. Meanwhile, these branches must find and collect more information and photos from local sources.

Ideally, archives must keep and provide a wide variety of information. Archives in foreign countries keep everything. Thailand's archives do not yet have  materials about Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos but they do have a number of Chinese documents.

Learn from listening

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  • abroad: in or to a foreign country - ในต่างประเทศ
  • academic: relating to education - เชิงวิชาการ
  • accessible: that can be reached, entered, used, seen, etc - ที่สามารถเข้าได้
  • agency (noun): a government department that provides a particular service - หน่วยงานราชการ
  • archive: a collection or historical records or documents - ข้อมูลที่ได้มีการบันทึกไว้
  • available: that you can get, use, find or buy - มีอยู่, หาได้
  • branch: an office, company, shop, etc., representing a large company or organisation in a particular area - สาขา
  • categorise: to put people or things into groups with the same features - จัดกลุ่ม, จัดประเภท
  • century: a period of one hundred years - ศตวรรษ
  • classify: to divide things into groups according to their type - จัดประเภท
  • collect (verb): to gather together a group/set/amount of things, often of the same sort - สะสม, เก็บรวบรวม
  • consultant: a person who knows a lot about a particular subject and is employed to give advice about it to other people - ผู้ให้คำปรึกษา
  • currently: at this time; now - ในปัจจุบัน
  • database: a large amount of information stored in a computer in an organised way - ฐานข้อมูล
  • digitisation: changing some system so that it uses data on a computer readable (digital) format -
  • digitised: made into a form that can be used on computers, after scanning it, for example -
  • division (noun): one part of a large company or organisation - แผนก
  • document: a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type  - เอกสาร
  • document: a piece of paper or a set of papers containing official information - เอกสาร
  • equipment: the things that are needed for a particular purpose or activity - อุปกรณ์, เครื่องมือ
  • establish: to start a company or organization that will likely continue for a long time - สถาปนา, ก่อตั้ง, จัดตั้ง
  • estimated: thought to be a particular amount, size, etc. based on a guess or the best information available - ประมาณการ
  • eventually: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด
  • facilitate: to make it possible or easier for something to happen - ทำให้สะดวกขึ้น
  • Foreign Affairs Ministry (noun): The ministry in charge of maintaining relations with other countries and looking after the interests of its citizens living abroad. - กระทรวงการต่างประเทศ
  • functional: able to be used - ใช้การได้
  • globalisation (noun): the idea that the world is developing a single economy and culture as a result of improved technology and communications - โลกาภิวัตน์, โลกานุวัตร, การแพร่หลายไปทั่วโลก
  • graduate student: a student studying for a master's degree or a doctorate - นักศึกษาบัณฑิตศึกษา, นักศึกษาปริญญาโท/ปริญญาเอก
  • ground floor: the bottom floor of a building, with the entrance to the building -
  • historical: about history; about events that really happened in the past - เกี่ยวข้องกับการศึกษาประวัติศาสตร์
  • huge: very large - ใหญ่โต
  • ideally: in the best possible way — - ดีเลิศ, ดีที่สุด, ในอุดมคติ
  • immediately (adv): happening right after something else with no delay; right away - ทันที
  • install: to put a piece of equipment somewhere and make it ready for use - ติดตั้ง
  • involved (verb): taking part or having a role in something - เกี่ยวข้อง, มีบทบาท
  • issuance: giving something out officially - ออกประกาศ
  • issue: to give or provide something official - แจกจ่าย
  • local: in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น
  • manually: by hand - ด้วยมือ
  • map (noun): an image of an area that shows the positions of things such as countries, rivers, cities, and streets - แผนที่
  • material: information or ideas used in books, songs, etc - ข้อมูล, เนื้อหา, ใจความ, สาระ
  • ministry: a government department that has a particular area of responsibility - กระทรวง
  • museum: a building where objects of historical, scientific or artistic interest are kept - พิพิธภัณฑ์
  • numerous: many - มากมาย
  • platform (noun): the type of computer system or the software that is used; a technology -
  • public: open to people in general - สาธารณะ
  • record: a written account of something that is kept so that it can be looked at and used in the future - การบันทึก, รายงาน
  • reflect: to show - สะท้อน แสดงถึง
  • regularly: done or happening often, especially with the same time and space in between each activity and the next - เป็นประจำ, เสมอๆ
  • reign (noun): a period of time during when a king or queen rules a country - ช่วงเวลาครองราชย์
  • research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย
  • researcher: a person who carriers out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - นักวิจัย
  • responsible for: to have a duty to do something - มีความรับผิดชอบ
  • search (noun): looking somewhere or through something carefully in order to find something - การค้นหา
  • slide (noun): a presentation slide, one of a series of items (graphs, lists, text, pictures) shown to an audience during a presentation, a powerpoint slide - สไลด์ [เทคโนโลยีการศึกษา]
  • source: a place where information comes from; someone who gives information - แหล่ง
  • staff: workers employed by a person or organisation considered as a group - คณะผู้ทำงาน, คนงาน
  • task: something that you have to do - หน้าที่
  • upgrade (noun): something that improves the quality or usefulness of a computer, a machine or a system - การยกระดับ, การพัฒนาให้ดีขึ้น
  • variety (noun): many different types of things or people - ความหลากหลาย
  • worth: having a value in money, etc - มีค่า, มีมูลค่า
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