The Siam Society Library, Kamthieng House Museum

The Siam Society’s collection of research manuscripts, books, rare books, photos, micro-film, tapes, videos, maps and traditional manuscripts on palm leaf, and other documents constitute the first non-privately owned library in Thailand.

The Siam Society library is noted for its outstanding rare books collection, most of which is related to Southeast Asia.

The Siam Society was founded in 1904 in cooperation with Thai and foreign scholars. The Society quickly became a learned society whose members included many of the most illustrious historians, archaeologists and epigraphers of that period.

The primary purpose of the society’s library was to make this information available to its membership and the research community. The library also supports investigation and background information for its many activities: local and international study trips; lectures by noted experts and scholars; art and artifact exhibitions of international standard; classical and contemporary cultural and musical performances; seminars, and publications by the Siam Society including, two international recognized periodicals, the Journal of the Siam Society (JSS) and the Natural History Bulletin (NHB).

From its inception, the Siam Society’s objective was to encourage research and information gathering on art, history, culture and natural sciences of Thailand and neighboring countries. In 1924, “Knowledge gives rise to friendship” was adopted as the Siam Society’s motto to convey the message that the search for knowledge is the bridge to friendship between nations.

Minute books collection
Inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World as a record of international cooperation in research and the dissemination of knowledge in the arts and sciences.

The Minute Books of the Siam Society from 1904 have been inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register as a record of international cooperation in research and the dissemination of knowledge in the arts and sciences.

The Memory of the World Register is like UNESCO’s World Heritage listing, but for documents rather than buildings.

The archive of Minute Books contain the official records of the Council meetings and the General Meetings of the Siam Society from 1904 to 2004 and beyond. It reflects the Society’s system, process and outcome of work, its obstacles and challenges, the personalities and organizations contributing to its success and the scope of its work in a century of great international changes and development. It testifies to the continuous transactions and cooperation of an international and intellectual nature, among the many generations of people elected to carry out the work of the Siam Society over the long and eventful century.

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The Society’s motto, “Knowledge gives rise to Friendship”, a fore-runner of the current concept of many regional and global organizations, sums up the idealism with which members joined their efforts in launching various projects in the past as well as in the present. This idealism is reflected in the records of their transactions, meeting after meeting, year after year in the past century. The minutes show that, over 100 years and more, the knowledge promoted and generated by the Society has expanded to cover diverse fields of interests, such as language and literature, law, history and archaeology, cultural expressions of ethnic groups including textiles, music, beliefs and indigenous knowledge, natural science and medicine, conservation and tourism. The friendship, through the Society’s networks under its various sections, has also grown in quantity and quality, as well as in diversity, in terms of nationality, age groups, and fields of interest.

The UNESCO Memory of the World programme was started in 1992 “to preserve these recorded treasures of humanity and mobilize resources so that future generations can enjoy this legacy that is preserved in the major libraries, archives and museums across the globe.”

The register was begun in 1995, and now has around 400 items, including the Gutenberg Bible, Bayeux Tapestry, Magna Carta, and the film of the Wizard of Oz.

The Society’s Minute Books are the fourth entry on the register from Thailand. The others are: the King Ram Khamhaeng Inscription (listed in 2003); documents on King Chulalongkorn’s transformation of Siam (2009); and the 1,431 inscriptions of Wat Pho (2011).

Kamthieng House Museum
The Kamthieng House Museum is a museum in Watthana District, Bangkok, run by the Siam Society under royal patronage. It is a 160-year-old traditional teakwood house from northern Thailand.

The Siam Society under Royal Patronage was founded in 1904 in cooperation with Thai and foreign scholars to promote knowledge of Thailand and its surrounding region.

The Society premises on Asoke Montri Road in Bangkok house a library that has a unique collection including manuscripts and rare books. The Kamthieng House, a precious example of northern Thai architecture, houses a folk museum. Study trips are made to historical sites, cultural events, and nature sites in all corners of Thailand and overseas. Lectures are organized several times a month on a wide range of topics. The Journal of the Siam Society and the Natural History Bulletin are published annually and distributed free to members. The Society also publishes scholarly books; stages performances of music, dance, and drama; hosts exhibitions and conferences; and is involved in projects of cultural preservation.

Today, the Siam Society has a membership drawn from a broad spectrum of Thais and foreigners, and continues to operate as a non-profit organization dedicated to its founding cause.