Friday, November 26, 2010

The People's Museum - November 26th, 2010

The Khong District Museum

Yet another old French building is falling apart, even though this time it is nominally maintained.

This beautiful French villa sits back a tiny way from the road. It used to belong to Madame Hang Kham-Tan and was built in 1935 when the French were still building well.

The garden is protected by walls and it doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to imagine a table set for lunch in the shade of a tree, old Citroën cars bringing dinner guests, long warm evenings with a glass of Pernod and the tinkling of ice.

All that is gone now, of course, and the Kham-Tan family has gone to France. The building now belongs to the People.

The eves are rotting and under the roof a wasp nest now grows. The well-laid plaster is falling in chunks under the weight of humidity and neglect. You can still admire the staircase and the old cement floor tiles.

The first time we went the museum was closed, of course. But the next day I went and when the Party cadres showed up for their meeting next door I grabbed someone who knew someone who knew someone else who knew who had the key.

Phone calls were made and the man with the key showed up. Inside the museum there are a few exhibits labeled with bits of Styrofoam, an old statue and a piece of the island’s mythological railway.

But the most interesting parts of the museum aren’t part of the museum at all: they are all the posters and presentation panels from previous Party conferences that have been crammed into the place like a second thought and left there, safe in the knowledge that no-one, ever, would want to visit the museum.

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