History

In 2003, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit requested permission to use a then-vacant building on the grounds of the Grand Palace to house a new museum of textiles. The 1870 Ratsadakorn-bhibhathana Building was graciously granted for this purpose by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The office building—for many decades the Ministry of Finance—was completely renovated and turned into a state-of-the-art museum; its modern facilities include a new lobby, galleries, storage, an education studio, library, lecture hall, and Thailand’s first dedicated textile conservation laboratory. Nonetheless, its past is still very much present, in the preservation of its original façade and many internal architectural details.

 

 


The Ratsadakorn-bhibhathana Building

In the early Rattanakosin period (1782-ca. 1810) a single-story army barracks was built on this site. Following the original three-zone Palace organization designating the outer area for the military, the middle for offices and residences for the king and male courtiers, and the inner for women of the court, the building is located just inside the outer wall of the Grand Palace, to the right of the visitors’ entrance gate.

In 1870, early in the reign of King Rama V, the barracks was demolished and the present Italianate building was erected. It is probable that the Grassi brothers, three Italian architects recruited that year to work in Bangkok, were involved in its design. The new building was named for its first occupant, the Royal Department of Tax Revenue (later the Ministry of Finance) and was twice enlarged between 1870 and 1918. Following the ministry’s departure in 1987, it became the Office of Royal Ceremony.


Present

The transformation of this office building into a textile museum was superintended by Mr. Grittip Sirirattumrong of DSDI International Co., Inc., a specialist in historic preservation and reuse. Fascinating traces of the building’s nineteenth-century origins were found during renovation, including a pediment ornament bearing the emblem of King Rama V and a cache of 33 cannonballs, relics of the site’s military past. The finished museum combines sleek, modern galleries and state-of-the-art back-of-house facilities while that retaining a wealth of period architectural details that honor the building’s original era and style.