The House of Museums   
reflections of a bygone era

By Eric Lim

The House of Museums in Thawi Watthana district, Bangkok, the brainchild of Anake Nawigamune, exhibits replicas of old shops in neighbourhood markets from the earlier half of the 20th C onwards.

This quaint museum is located in the north-west of Bangkok right on the outskirts of the city and preserves the livelihoods of the small traders and shopkeepers in the old days. Each little shop is a museum by itself and all these little museums are housed under one roof.

It’s a private museum managed by volunteers from the Cultural Affairs Association. The museum was first opened on 14 July 2001 but during the disastrous floods at the end of 2011, it was badly damaged. Volunteers worked hard at repairs and the museum was reopened on 14 July 2012.

Entrance to the House of Museums

A signboard at the entrance shows the highest level of the flood waters in 2011, 160 cm or 5 feet 3 inches! 

A sad reminder of November 2011

About the House of Museums 

Lots of thought and effort have gone into the making of this museum. Imagine the intense research in determining the details of these shops, their stocks and equipment. Someone donated the land; an architect contributed his services to design the buildings for the museum.

A graduate student specialising in displays and exhibits from the Faculty of Decorative Arts, Silapkorn University of Fine Arts designed the layout of the displays and exhibits.

Members of the public donated old items, apparently useless in this modern age, but still of great historical and sentimental value. The old shops were authentically constructed, meticulously furnished and stocked to appear like the real shops of old.

Shop displays

The museum is staffed by volunteers who sacrifice their weekends to welcome visitors who wish to take a walk through the corridors of history. Before we join them, let’s find out more about the man responsible for this making this museum a reality.


The man behind the museum

Anake Nawigamune was born on 14 March 1953 in Songkla, a province in southern Thailand. He was the youngest of seven children and his parents ran a small book store in his hometown in Ranot, a coastal town located on a narrow strip of land between the Gulf of Thailand and the lakes.

Brought up in a book store surrounded by books by parents who dealt with books, Anake developed a love for reading and writing from an early age. His father’s book shop probably had an influence on the theme for his museum project in future.

When Anake completed his high school, he studied Political Science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Upon graduation he became a journalist with the now defunct newspaper Chao Phraya. He also contributed to various magazines and periodicals on economics and politics.

As a boy, Anake enjoyed collecting old items, visiting, writing and photographing places. His inquiring mind was always seeking new information on Thai culture and history among other subjects. With a strong interest in history he wanted to preserve the past as a source of knowledge for the people.

"Museums are the jewels of the nation, depositories of the national heritage and dignity."

He later became a freelance writer and proved to be a prolific one. To date, he’s responsible for a long list of publications; 172 feature articles and 148 pocket books on Thai culture, history and travel.

Writers are dreamers; it’s during these dreams that new ideas are born. During the many evenings when he was relaxing by the rice fields, the dream of a museum kept reoccurring along with reminiscence of his childhood.

Later he received a scholarship to study in Germany and took the opportunity to go on a study tour of museums in France. On his return he started the Cultural Affairs Association with a group of like-minded friends.

On 14 July 2001, the House of Museums became a reality, a fruition of his dreams. The museum runs on the motto that has been the driving force in Anake Nawigamune’s life,

"Preserve today, tomorrow it’ll be history"

Ground floor of the House of Museums

The crowning glory in Anake Nawigamune’s career arrived in July 2015 when he won the Chukiat Utakapan Award* in recognition of his literary works and cultural contributions to society through the House of Museums.


Chukiat Utakapan (1942 – 2002) founded the Amarin Printing and Publishing Public Company with business in magazine and book publishing and printing. Recently they have also developed an entertainment TV channel, Amarin TV.

The Chukiat Utakapan Award founded in 2004 in honour of Chukiat Utakapan is awarded to writers, publishers and other agencies responsible for high quality publications and creative literary works.

Since 2008, the scope of this award has been expanded to include works by individuals and organisations that:

·         Improve knowledge and development of life and society

·         Involve self-sacrifice and devotion to a cause

·         Cultural development that improve quality of life for individuals and society in general.


Organisation of the House of Museums

The museum is housed in two adjoining buildings. In the first building which is the main building, the museum displays occupy three floors. In the second building, the displays are only on the ground floor.

There’s a coffee house located between the two buildings, Weekend Café, for visitors to relax and have refreshments after the visit.


Tour of the House of Museums

Let’s take a walk through the House of Museums.

First building – first floor

The entrance is in the first building where you will find the following old shops:

  • A sundry goods shop, the signboard for this shop, "Bunsong Trading", is taken from Anake’s father’s bookshop in Ranot. To my regret I only found out about this after the visit and didn’t get a photo of this shop!
  • A toy shop
  • A traditional medicine shop
  • A souvenir shop

The shop just to the right front door doubles up as an entrance fee collection counter as well. Some of the items like sweets are on sale to the delight of the children who were visiting the museum.

Once inside this House of Museum, you immediately get the feeling you are in another world.

Toy shop

Traditional medicine shop

Souvenir shop

Second floor

Let’s go upstairs to the second floor. There are some vintage items on the landing as well.

Displays on landing to the second floor – recognise them?

The second floor has the following displays:

  • An old photo shop
  • A miniature cinema complete with the old flip seats
  • A printing press
  • A barber shop
  • An old kitchen
  • Some rocking horses and a table football set, things which we don’t get to see anymore.

Photo shop and equipment

Old cinema with the flip seats

Printing press

Barber shop

An old kitchen

Table football – as they didn’t have computer games then this was a very popular game.

Third floor

The third floor was opened a year after the main museum. It was originally used as a store room until there were enough items to create a new display area. The design and renovations were provided by supporters of the museum.

The third floor features:

  • A district officer’s office
  • An old classroom, note the canes on the teacher’s table, they didn’t spare the rod in those days.
  • A record shop with some very old records, these items may look alien in today’s digital age
  • A collection of old books, clocks, and other household items
  • First generation mobile phones

District Officer’s office

Old classroom

Do you remember the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "South Pacific" and later Julie Andrews in the "Sound of Music"?

Record shop

Analog clocks

Second building

The second building has displays only on the first floor and features the following shops displays:

  • A goldsmith shop
  • An old dental clinic
  • A coffee shop of old with some very interesting devices
  • A small garden in the open space with an old trishaw on display

I don’t think the goldsmith shop will ever go out of fashion

Dental clinic

This mock-up of an old coffee shop is my favourite, complete down to the last detail including the coffee brewing apparatus and the spittoons on the floor, a bad habit of the past that’s thankfully eradicated today.

Old coffee shop and equipment

The wooden platform with a sharp blade inserted from below was how they crushed ice more 50 years ago by moving the block of ice up and down across the blade to make ice balls and other sweet deserts.

1st generation ice crusher - manual

2nd generation ice crusher - mechanical

You don’t see this trishaw on the roads anymore

Weekend Café

That brings us to the end of our tour of the House of Museums. Do drop in at the Weekend Café for a hot brew and some snacks. When I first entered the café, I thought it was still part of the museum displays.

Inside the Weekend Cafe

It’s a comfortable and cozy little place to relax after that walk past such pleasant memories.


Future Plans

Plans have been made for the second location for the House of Museums. The new project called "Talad Lek" or the Little Market will be located on 2.5 rai (0.4 hectare or 0.98 acre) of land in Tambon Ngiu Rai, Amphur Nakhon Chaisi, Nakhon Pathom.

The Cultural Affairs Association bought the land in 2008 and designs for the Little Market completed in 2010 provide for rows of little shops by the Tha Chin River. This complex will also have a warehouse to store donated items not placed on display yet.

The project is estimated to cost 15 m baht and donations in cash and old shop and household items are welcome.


Our thanks

Our thanks to the volunteers in the House of Museums for their services; it’s gratifying to see the spirit of volunteerism in providing a cultural service to the people.

We are grateful for the booklet on Anake Nawigamune and the museum from which was found a wealth of information for this article.

All photographs are with the courtesy of the House of Museums.

Today, large corporations, mega-stores, supermarket chains, franchised convenience stores are dominating almost every aspect of consumers’ lives.

The old pop and mom stores in the neighbourhood may soon be a thing of the past. Gone will be the days when the person behind counter knew you and your family personally.

The House of Museums preserves those cherished memories for those of us who care to remember. In the words of the founder, Anake Nawigamune,

"Preserve today, tomorrow it’ll be history"


Map to the House of Museums

View in a larger map


How to get there

By Car

Cross over to the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, you can either use Borommarachachonani Road via the Phra Pinklao Bridge to the north or Phetkasem Road to the south.

Turn right to Phutthamonthon Sai 2, head due north till you reach Sal Thammasop Road. Turn left into Sala Thammasop Road and after about 250 m; turn left again into Sala Thammasop Soi 3.

Follow the signboards in this narrow soi till you get to the museum.

By bus

Air-conditioned bus service no. 515 from the Victory Monument goes all the way to the Salaya Market. From there take a taxi or motor-cycle taxi to the museum in Sala Thamamsop Soi 3.

Contact details

House of Museums

170/17 Sala Thammasop Soi 3

Thawi Watthana district

Bangkok 10170

Tel: 089 2002803

Opening times

The House of Museums is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1000 – 1700 hours.

Please remove your footwear before going into the museum.

Photographs are welcome, no camera stands or tripods please.

Please don’t move or touch the exhibits or sit or stand on the chairs, cupboards and tables.


Senior citizens above 65 years of age - free

Adults – 40 baht

Children – 10 baht


For more Bangkok Museums

If you are an independent traveller, here's a handy e-guide book, Tour Bangkok Legacies which will help you along as you explore the streets of Bangkok and discover its old treasures. It's complete with historical descriptions, maps and detailed directions on how to get to these places.

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