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The Royal Thai Dockyard Museum  
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Review of The Royal Thai Dockyard Museum
By: (1081) | Date: October 9, 2013

As part of the commemorations of His Majesty the King’s 84th Birthday, the Royal Thai Dockyard Museum was opened officially on 25 August 2011. The display building is a magnificent one in the Victorian “gingerbread” style popular in King Rama V’s time. The museum is situated in the grounds of the Royal Dockyard, or the Naval Dockyard Department at present. This naval office is commissioned to build ships and do the repairing work as well. The museum features die-cast geographic and typographic models of this strategic location and its long history. Significant evidences include the ubosot (ordination hall) to the front next to the Dockyard entrance, and Wongsamunwiharn Temple. The temple was an ancient one from the early Rattankosin era; but only its ubosot and the principal Buddha image remain. In the past, here stood the residence of Somdet Chao Phraya Maha Kasatsuk (King Thaksin’s General) during the time Thonburi was the capital city of Siam. When the Somdet Chao Phraya became the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, he built a new palace on the opposite bank of the river. The old Thonburi palace was then called Phra Ratchawang Derm (the Old Palace).
 
The museum’s video presentations introduce the history and missions of the Naval Dockyard Department, and create quite a realistic atmosphere especially when visitors, while watching the video, sit on wooden bolsters that were used to support ships yet to be repaired.
 
The permanent exhibition focuses on 7 topics : “From the Palace to the Royal Dockyard”, “From the Royal Dockyard to the Naval Dockyard Department”, “H.M. the King and Naval Architecture”, “Strengthening the Royal Thai Navy’s Maritime Power”, “Preservation of the Nation’s Cultural Legacy”, “Preparing for Combats” and “Dockyards and Shipbuilding Industry of Thailand”.
 
The display entitled “From the Palace to the Royal Dockyard” tracks the origin of the Dockyard. Around 1888, King Rama V approved the acquisition of a number of steel warships, purchased from Japan, England and some other western countries, to add to the Royal Thai Navy fleet at that time. To dock these new ships, he gave permission to the Naval Department to build on royal grounds, to the south of Rakhang Khositaram Temple, a large “Wooden Dockyard” within a foundry there, ready for the jobs of ship building and repairing. The King officially opened this “Royal Dockyard” on 9 January, 1891. Today, this date has been observed as the Naval Dockyard Installation Day. On display in this section are broken porcelain bowls and plates and ancient cannonballs excavated from along the Chao Phraya banks near the fiber boat factory (old one). These artifacts, probably more than 100 years old, were discovered during the construction of flood walls in 2001. More artifacts displayed are commemorative coins fabricated by the Naval Dockyard Department on important occasions, as well as some Royal Gazette issues which documented the opening ceremony of the royal dockyard.
 
Next is the display “From the Royal Dockyard to the Naval Dockyard Department” which presents the development of the department. Vintage photos show the first war vessel of the Royal Thai Navy, which was built in 1920 with funds donated by Thai people and government officials, as a present to King Rama VI. The King named it “HTMS Phra Ruang”. More rare photos are those of the HTMS Sukhothai while cruising under the Buddha Yod Fa Bridge, still a drawbridge then. Another display “H.M. the King and Naval Architecture” is a lesson on building a sailboat. The King was very keen about this hobby of building sailboats, due to his interests in handicrafts and water sports particulary sailing. The extent of his creativity and knowledge explained his initiation to have the Naval Dockyard Department build their own warships. As a result, patrolling ships or the Tor 91 fleet were built, followed by the Tor 991 and the Tor 994. A very important exhibit is the visitors’ book which has in it the royal initials of Their Majesties the King and Queen, and some well-wishing notes of some other Royal Family members. That was the time the King visited the Department in an important ceremony of keel laying and ship launching.
 
“Strengthening the Royal Thai Navy’s Maritime Power” explains the techniques of repairing and building ships. The display presents things like furnaces, iron bolts, sketch drawings of ships, retro pictures of coastal patrolling ships (the Tor 994), cabinets containing utensils for sketch drawing, and picture boards showing the Crown Princess performing the solemn, official ceremony of ship launching and keel laying.
 
The display in “Preservation of the Nation’s Cultural Legacy” tells about the origin of the graceful royal barge Narai Song Suban, the first one built during the King’s reign on the auspicious occasion of his 50th anniversary of accession to the throne in 1996. This masterpiece barge built by the Naval Dockyard Department showcases amazing boat building techniques, and  exquisite craft. The craft work was done by the Fine Arts Department.
 
On the ground floor, the contents of the display “Preparing for Combats” or “Until the Repairing Work Is Done” is about the tools needed to repair a warship e.g. compasses for the job of drawing naval maps, pressure gauges, magnifying glasses for checking metal texture, speedometer operated by light, devices for checking compactness and looseness of sand, and sewing machines for leather work, etc. Some old photos show the detailed restoration work of the HTMS Chakrinarubet warship. Available too are some research and development records of work done for the country such as the building of the Krabi-style long-tail boats (rua hua thong) to help tsunami victims, barges or flat-bottomed boats to help flood victims, the flood relief invention of high pressure water pumps to help speed up current flows in the rivers, and the invention of a model engine for manufacturing bio-diesel.
 
In the last display “Dockyards and Ship Building Industry of Thailand”, a highlight is the model of the Tor 991 ship made by the HSVA Institute of Germany. The actual ship was built in honor of His Majesty the King. The museum got the model back and has had it displayed ever since. A few more model warships are also very interesting. Lastly, it is the presentation of the ship building business done by some privately owned companies in case of the Naval Dockyard Department for some reasons is unable to do the building or repairing work – such as in the cases of HTMS Rit and HTMS Suriya (No. 2), as shown in the photo exhibit. These ships were built by the Bangkok Dockyard Co., Ltd.  A few unusual exhibits in here are an unmanned underwater vessel for submarine combats, and shooting targets for overcoming a submarine.
 
The museum has done some promotion in order to make it better known as an accessible place by organizing some tourist activities jointly with the Tourism Section of the Bangkok Metropolitan such as boat cruises to several famous attractions in Bangkok and nearby provinces.
 
Field work survey : August 19, 2013
Special exhibits :  ship building and repairing tools, information boards on the history and missions of the Naval Dockyard Department

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  The Royal Thai Dockyard Museum  
: The Royal Thai Naval Dockyard, Moo.2, Arun-amarin Rd., Bangkok Noi, BKK 10700
: 0-2475-5368
: 0-2475-5369
: Monday-Friday from 8.30am-4.30pm
: free admission. Please contact in advance. Only for group 12-50 persons.
: http://www.dockyard.navy.mi.th/
doced/Museum_Ship/index.html
: toykanchana@yahoo.com
: 2011
: -
Management : state agency
Story : etc
military/war
architecture
Status : Open
Update Dec 21, 2013
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