Walk down history lane

Museum Siam is once again hosting the art festival 'Cultural District 2021' to help people learn about Rattanakosin Island

Projection mapping on Museum Siam. (Photos: Cultural District 2021)

In order to help people learn about the architecture of historical buildings on Rattanakosin Island, Museum Siam has launched "Cultural District 2021: The Art Festival For The Opening Of Rattanakosin Island" under the theme "Storied Structure: Architecture Awe Of Old Town Bangkok". The main events -- "Street Art Exhibition Photo Shoot Of People In Pak Klong Talad Quarter", art and lighting installations, an interactive swing, and animation showcases and workshops -- will run between Oct 15-17 at Museum Siam.

Songtip Sermsawatsri, acting director of the Exhibition and Activity Department at Museum Siam, explained that the theme "Storied Structure: Architecture Awe Of Old Town Bangkok" was inspired by the variety of architectural elements of the structures on Rattanakosin Island.

"Buildings around Tha Tian and Tha Prachan are built in colonial style. A bit further away from the area are Chinese-style shophouses. In the Ratchadamnoen area, buildings are more modern. Due to the various styles, we researched and spoke to academics about the background of these buildings and discovered that their styles are different due to construction trends, ownership and purpose of the structure," said Songtip.

The interactive swing.

'Street Art Exhibition On The Photo Shoots Of People In Pak Klong Talad Quarter'.

"Construction work in the past had restrictions. For example, the colours of a temple's roof reflected the social status of the owner. If the roof had five colours, it meant the temple was owned or built by a king. If the roof had three or four colours, it was owned or built by a nobleman. Lastly, if the roof had one or two colours, it was built by an ordinary person."

The art festival "Cultural District 2021" was first launched in 2019 and saw almost 20,000 visitors over the three-day event. The objective of the festival is to inform people about the history of the Rattanakosin Island area. These areas either have a historical background or are places that have been forgotten.

"We found many historical venues, such as a drug store, a tea shop and a nobleman's mansion. After talking with the respective owners, we learned the history of the buildings, which was a surprise for them as they did not realise there is interest in these topics. The new generation, which is Museum Siam's target audience, is interested in new places to travel, so we are introducing them to new locations," said Songtip.

Due to the pandemic, "Cultural District 2021" was postponed several times and will now be held without the activities that attracted crowds in 2019, such as the art fair and music performances. This year, one of the highlights is the art and lighting installation called "Project Mapping In Praise Of Cultural Heritage", which will allow audiences to experience the history of Museum Siam as well as its aesthetic charm.

A glass plate photo, part of the 'Glass Plate Photography Exhibition'. (Photo: Museum Siam)

A flower arranging workshop.

"The project is the result of collaboration with 27 June Studio. Besides the theme "Storied Structure: Architecture Awe Of Old Town Bangkok", the project is using the Museum Siam building as a canvas to convey historical stories through a technique known as projection mapping. Another attraction is the interactive swing, which allows the audience to create art while riding it," said Songtip.

Meanwhile, "Street Art Exhibition On The Photo Shoots Of People In Pak Klong Talad Quarter" presents the stories of people of Pak Klong Talad Quarter through a photo exhibition by Nut Sasamon, a female street photographer. The exhibition is accompanied by a flower arrangement workshop run by expert florists from Flower Land and Dokmaai.com. The workshop is limited to 20 participants per session.

"We've arranged the workshop because we believe in two-way communication. If we provide only brochures and information boards, it is not very memorable. However, if visitors have hands-on experience in something, they will understand it better and not forget it," explained Songtip.

Organised by Red Light Lab Studio, the "Glass Plate Photography Exhibition" showcases 20 photos taken using analogical techniques. This activity runs until Oct 31.

"We are fascinated by the glass plate negative technique because these photos last for a century. We want to take photos of places to conserve history for future generations. Some photos of present-day places show how the architecture and environment have changed, however, some places have never been photographed before. For example, most people have never seen the interior of the Ministry of Defence's office located opposite the Temple of Emerald Buddha. Its wooden interior is magnificent, with a gingerbread trim in Victorian style," said Songtip.

In 2019, participants also attended "Cultural District 2021" tours to learn more about historical areas, but this year, tours will be a part of an "Online Seminar". The seminar includes interesting topics such as "Indulging In Old Times Through Renovated Hotels In Bangkok" by Weera-ath Chin-issariyayot of Inn A Day and Surin Panyatpiyapot of Kacha Bed; and "Strolling Through The Town, Reading Socio-History Through Architecture Heritage" by Kriangkrai Kerdsiri, from the Faculty of Architecture, Silpakorn University.

"People may have heard about early cinemas in Thailand such as King Cinema, Queen Cinema and Grand Cinema, but many don't know what they look like. The Queen cinema building is located in Wang Burapha, but it has been turned into a parking lot. However, visitors can still see a trace of what used to be a luxurious cinema from the chandelier and imported marble. The owner likes to share what the cinema and audiences in the past were like," said Songtip.

Museum Siam was established in 2008 as a new type of institution and learning resource. The museum is meant for the new generation who are ready to try something new. "Museum Siam does not own masterpieces like renowned traditional museums which sometimes attract people from around the world. We use technology and other tools to communicate with visitors. We are trying to reach the new generation because they are the future of the country. Compared to the past, Thais today are more enthusiastic about museums and the market is currently more competitive than before," said Songtip.

Songtip said it is difficult to estimate the number of visitors that will attend "Cultural District 2021" because it is one of the first large events after the easing of lockdown restrictions in Bangkok.

"Many people have shared information about 'Cultural District 2021' and commented that they would like to attend. Last year, we organised 'The Cat Society', which drew 30,000 cat lovers over three days. This year, we will implement strict safety measures so everyone can enjoy it safely. If the festival receives good feedback, we may decide to organise this annually," concluded Songtip.

Visit facebook.com/CulturalDistrictBangkok for a schedule and details.

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