Being 44 years old may seem young to many of us, but it is a ripe old age for a group of expats interested in Thai culture and history. The National Museum Volunteers (NMV) is 44 years old this year. Two NMV volunteers, Victoria Kudriavtseva and Margot Weinmann, talked about the NMV at the Sunday, March 24 meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club.
Margot explained that the NMV started in 1969 when Chira Chongkol, Head of Education and Public Relations at the National Museum Bangkok, invited a group of international women from the American Women’s Club to prepare a tour in English of the Thai Art Collection. Chira had witnessed expats wandering around the museum, not appreciating the exhibits because there were no explanations in English. The first English tour of the museum was undertaken in June 1969. Margot said that, normally, expats are not allowed to serve as guides in Thai museums, but that an exception was made in this case.
MC Richard Silverberg starts the 24th March meeting by reminding all of the free newsletters available on the information table.
Currently, the NMV provides tours of the museum in English, German, French and Japanese. The tours are every Wednesday and Thursday morning at 09:30. Today, people interested in being NMV guides must first take a two-and-a-half month course. Over the years, the NMV took on other activities, such as offering a course in Buddhism, and organizing study periods, lectures and trips. The first such trip was to India in 1987. The NMV has also produced several books.
Margot recounted that one of the proudest moments of the NMV occurred in 1986 when it arranged to bring an important Thai artifact back to Thailand from a museum in Chicago. The artifact was the Vishnu lintel from Prasat Hin Phanom Rung, a historical park in Surin province. The lintel had been spotted in a storeroom in the museum. It was restored to the park.
In 1989, 2001 and in 2004, the NMV received the Thai National Heritage Award. In 2001 and 2002, the NMV organized charity galas to spotlight the treasures of the National Museum and to promote the conservation of the Museum’s textile collection.
Due to inflation and the growth in the organization’s activities over the years, annual membership fees in the NMV have gone from zero at the outset to 1,200 baht today. Currently, the NMV has around 300 members, both women and men, with a wide range of expertise and backgrounds. The membership is Thai and international and represents over 30 nations.
Speaker Margot Weinmann of the National Museum Volunteers (NMV) of Thailand began her presentation by giving a brief history of the organisation, since founding in 1969. Margot said its’ proudest moment was when a carved lintel from the Phanom Rung temple near Buriram was returned, after being discovered in a Chicago Museum.
Victoria revealed that in November 2011, the NMV set up a chapter in Pattaya, founded by Margot and herself. The chapter has organized two study groups: one on Peoples in Thailand, and one on Religions and Beliefs in Thailand. Each person in the study group chooses one topic and makes a presentation to other members of the group. Meetings are held weekly in member’s homes; there are two or three presentations at each meeting. The Pattaya chapter has organized a trip to a hill tribe village to celebrate new year; and trips to Panom Rung and Phimai. It has a small “but excellent” library which is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 3pm, except Thai holidays.
Membership in the NMV entitles one to attend the Guiding Workshop to train to become a museum guide; participate in study groups; enjoy discounted fees and preference on local and out-of-country excursions, at homes and lectures; receive the NMV monthly newsletter; and use the NMV library. The National Museum Volunteers (NMV) is a non-profit organisation that has a variety of educational and cultural activities. More information is available on the NMV website at www. museumvolunteersbkk.net.
Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg provided an update on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand; Pattaya in particular.
For more information about the many activities of the Pattaya City Expats Club, visit their website at www.pattayacityexpatsclub.com.
Victoria Kudriavtseva advises that a Pattaya chapter of the National Museum Volunteers was established in November 2011, with two study groups: Peoples in Thailand, and one on Religions and Beliefs in Thailand. Meetings are held weekly, and trips to cultural sites are arranged.
Chair Pat Koester thanks Victoria and Margot for their interesting presentation, with a Certificate of Appreciation from Pattaya City Expats.