Accepted paper:

Sacred places and heritage sites: the challenges of the Vat Phu Museum in Southern Laos


Christine Hawixbrock (EFEO)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation aims to question the impact a site museum can have on local communities and to what extent access to the museum, acces to the sculptures presented and by extension, to the ancient history of the site can help these people to identify with their heritage and thereby to save it.

Paper long abstract:

The Wat Phu site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2001. In 2004, a museum opened to the feet of the temple, for exposing a part of the large collection of Khmer and Lao sculptures, which have up till now been kept far from the local communities (and the public eyes), this fact leaving them ignorant of their heritage and unable to claim it. If the museum is now visited by many tourists Far Eastern and Western, what about for the local population? Pay the entrance for the museum limits the access of the local people. Much more than the Khmer and Lao art, these are contemporary sculptures that illustrate some local legends, presented at the museum entrance, which are venerated. They don't come at Wat Phu because it's an archaeological site but because of it religious value, scene of one of the largest Buddhist festival in Laos. While the archaeological site is in danger and gradually disappears because of rapid urbanization, how to invite local people to be aware of and to identify themselves with a heritage in which they do not recognize themselves and which they do not understand.

panel P05
Local/global histories: the challenge of local museums