Great and Good Friends: National Archives Loans Artifacts to Thai Exhibition

The National Archives played a major role in the grand opening last week of a new exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand, at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. An international group effort, the exhibit—“Great and Good Friends: 200 Years of U.S.-Thai Friendship”—features more than 40 records and gifts loaned from the National Archives.

The items exchanged between Thai royalty and American Presidents—including ceremonial letters, head-of-state gifts, and an 11-foot facsimile of the 1833 U.S.-Siam Treaty—have never before been exhibited outside the United States. They will be featured among manuscripts, musical instruments, textiles, and other 19th-century artifacts loaned from the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution.

Members of the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles exhibit loan international install team pose in Bangkok, Thailand
Members of the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles exhibit loan international install team pose in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 3, 2018. National Archives representatives are Presidential Libraries museum collections officer Kim Koons (rear, third from left) and National Archives supervisory conservator Abigail Aldrich (Photo courtesy of Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, Bangkok, Thailand)

The “Great and Good Friends: 200 Years of U.S.-Thai Friendship” exhibit opened on March 21, 2018, at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles  in Bangkok, Thailand, and continues through June 30, 2018. United States Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies had the idea for the exhibition.

The title of the exhibit originates from the formal greeting—“Great and Good Friends”—used by U.S. Presidents in addressing the kings of Siam when contact between the two governments was limited to envoys and letters. The friendship between the nations began when an American sea captain entered the port of Bangkok and initiated an historic association between the two nations. These ceremonial gifts, on loan from the National Archives and our Presidential Libraries, reflect the continuing strong friendship of the American and Thai peoples.

We are pleased to share these and other historic treasures, and are honored to partner with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Meridian International, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Queen Sirikit Museum on the ‘Great and Good Friends’ exhibit.

While many of the objects are in remarkable condition, particularly for their age, some items underwent conservation to improve their stability in preparation for display. Conservation staff at the National Archives provided professional oversight of the treatment services performed on the decorative objects, textiles, and textual items from the agency.

National Archives supervisory conservator Abigail Aldrich and senior conservator Lauren Varga share several items including a silver niello bowl
National Archives supervisory conservator Abigail Aldrich and senior conservator Lauren Varga shared several items including a silver niello bowl with gold trim given by King Prajadhipok to President Herbert Hoover in 1931. From the Collection of the U.S. National Archives, Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. (National Archives photo by Jeffrey Reed)

Other related resources within the National Archives Catalog include the daguerreotype of King Mongkut and daughter, from King Mongkut to President James Buchanan, 1861; a Siamese sword with scabbard, from King Mongkut to President James Buchanan, 1861; and a letter from King Chulalongkorn to President Theodore Roosevelt. A silver-framed photograph of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, inscribed by the King and given to President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is available to view via the online Kennedy Library catalog.

For more information on items within the exhibit from other sources, see the recent Library of Congress blog post that showcases the Library’s Thai instruments on loan. For more detailed information on the “Great and Good Friends” exhibit and a history of the relationship between the two nations, see the Great and Good Friends exhibition website.

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