We open the doors to sweet symphonic music, which sets our mood for the guided tour of the exhibition. On entering the new section of Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles (QSMT) _ the main space has been open to the public since May last year as a learning centre about textiles _ we had to pinch ourselves that we hadn't walked into the Mad Hatter's tea party.
Rich cartoon sketches and drawings adorn the white walls, providing a pleasant contrast to the wooden furniture and faux-rattan chairs. New activity stations are scattered across the room, from a dress-up activity to a quiz on textile knowledge, and this boosts the appeal of a museum that has attracted much attention since its opening.
QSMT, in the Ratsadakorn-bhibhathana Building in the compound of the Grand Palace, was initiated by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn with a mission to promote and enhance knowledge about traditional textiles as part of Thailand's cultural heritage.
The museum launched its Activity Studio last Thursday, where visitors can learn about Thai textiles through four fun interactive activities.
To mark the occasion, members of the museum's executive committee, Thanpuying Charungjit Teekara, Thanpuying Oranush Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya and Dr Jaranthada Karnasuta, attended last week's opening. The Activity Studio has been designed to augment the museum's main exhibition _ a showcase of textiles from southeast, east and south Asia and the couture wardrobe of HM Queen Sirikit.
Magnetised miniature clothes, from uniforms to period costumes, are parts of the activity room.
In the new section, the activities are called "Dress the Dolls in Thai Style!", "Play our guessing game", "Imagine wearing colours matched to each day of the week", and "Textile Pattern Stamps". All focus on hands-on experiments, interactivity and practical exercises. In "Dress the Dolls in Thai Style!", visitors apply movable, magnetised clothes _ an updated version of the paper dolls with cut-out clothes. The available costumes are in traditional Thai styles from different periods, including the eight styles created by HM Queen Sirikit, as well as army uniforms for men. The dolls are placed in a series of picturesque, watercolour-style scenes of Thai life that have been rendered to look like the sketches of fashion designers.
"Through this, we're hoping that visitors will learn about the similarities and differences between the costumes in each period and contemporary dress," says Piyavara Teekara, head of the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles Project.
If you're looking for something more challenging, try "Play our guessing game", which tests knowledge about textiles through touch. The format is simple: you reach into eight pigeon-hole boxes and feel the fabric, raw material or weaving tool inside. You guess and find the answer by opening the boxes. Besides an occasional startling moment and bursts of squealing, this proves a unique way of learning _ especially for textile newbies.
Get another first-hand experience with "Imagine wearing colours matched to each day of the week!" where you can dress up in traditional Thai costumes in accordance with the auspicious colours of the days, as specified in the memoirs of Princess Chongchitrathanom Diskul.
For example, on Mondays women are expected to don a pale yellow bottom with either a blue or reddish top, or a dove grey bottom with an orange yellow-hued top. Thursdays take on a different code of fashion in an orange bottom with a pale green top or a light green bottom with a ruby-red top.
The other interactive section, "Textile Pattern Stamps", was inspired by the patterns found in Thai textiles from such groups as the Hmong, Ikat and other hilltribes. Visitors can use 12 rubber stamps to create their own patterns on cards provided, and these can be taken as souvenirs. This is also an activity that'll surely transport you back to the carefree days of primary school.
"In the near future, on behalf of the museum, we are hoping to launch a study trip project for schools, colleges, and universities in Thailand," says Piyavara.
"We believe that this is a great way to promote and create social awareness of Thai identity and cultural heritage through these interactive activities and exhibitions."
- Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles and Activity Studio is open daily from 9am-4.30pm with last entry at 3.30pm. Admission charges are 150 baht (adults), 80 baht (senior citizens, aged 65 and over), 50 baht (students) and 50 baht (children, aged 12-18).
Free admission for visitors aged 11 and under.
- For more information, call 02-2259430 ext 245 or visit www.qsmtthailand.org or the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles Facebook page.
Rubber stamps modelled after textile patterns.
A game of ‘dress the dolls’ with the backdrop of scenes from Thai life.
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Writer: Tammy Dejsupa