From Dusty Cobwebbed Piles to Golden Jewel: 8 Years of Transformation of the Luang Prabang Palace Museum
Vanpheng Keophannha
Deputy Director

Royal Palace National Museum

Luang Prabang



This is a first person story. I was hired by the Luang Prabang Department of Information and Culture in 1997 as an assistant collections manager of the Luang Prabang National Museum. In the late 1980s the Lao government decided to develop its tourism sector, but when I walked into the Museum for the first time in 1997, little had been done to develop the building as a Museum since 1976. The total professional staff at that time was 3, a Director, a Deputy Director, and me. As the first person with a background in museology to work in the Museum, I experienced a range of initial overwhelming impressions-- from the complexity of the job from registration to preservation; to the dust that needed to be cleaned off every surface from glassware to thrones; to the exhibitry the needed to be developed to explain the time and meaning of this building and its contents to the modern world. Over the past 8 years I have encountered problems ranging from how to develop a modern registration system without computers; to preservation of delicate materials such as royal silk clothing or old photographs and negatives without a conservation department. Fortunately, I have had several opportunities for additional training in collections management and textile conservation. My paper will detail the steps and challenges I have encountered in bringing the Palace from abandoned residence to a National Museum in a World Heritage Town.