Foundation

FOUNDATION

Under the Royal Patronage of H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

James Harrison Wilson Thompson, an American architect born in 1906, first came to Thailand with the US Army towards the end of World War II. After leaving military service, he decided to make Bangkok his permanent home. He became fascinated with the hand weaving of silk and recognized the potential of developing an international market for Thai silk.

In 1950, The Thai Silk Company was founded and it has become the leading exporter of Thai silk that soon became renowned worldwide. For his contribution to the development of the Thai silk industry, Thompson was awarded the Order of the White Elephant in 1962.

Jim Thompson became fascinated with Southeast Asian art and architecture and began to assemble a fine collection of antiques. In 1958-59, he reassembled six old Thai houses on property across the Cham village that wove his silk. He proudly displayed his beautifully arranged collection of old Thai paintings, Buddhist culture, Chinese porcelain and other objets d’art in his new home, the now famous House on the Klong. Women volunteers gave guided tours of his house a few mornings a week. The proceeds were donated to charity.

On March 27, 1967, Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared while staying with friends in the Cameron Highlands, a Malaysian hill resort. Seven years later, he was declared legally dead, and his estate was left to his nephew, Henry B. Thompson III. In keeping his uncle’s intention to have his art collection remain in Thailand, his heir graciously donated the house and his antiques to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation.

Administration of the Foundation

In 1975, the Court-appointed administrator for the property of Jim Thompson received permission from government ministries of the Kingdom of Thailand to legally establish The James H.W Thompson Foundation. Accordingly, the property was vested in the Foundation, and the house and art collection are now officially registered as a national museum. By virtue of the dictates of its charter and the abiding interests of Jim Thompson, the Foundation operates under the supervision of a seven-member Board of Trustees, and has the following objectives

  • To open the house of James H.W. Thompson as an art museum for the interest and enjoyment of the general public in order to enhance the understanding of Thai art and culture
  • To promote activities related to Thai arts and culture for the benefit of Thailand
  • To acquire, from time to time, by donation or purchase additional artefacts or properties as deemed appropriate. 

Past Presidents

  • H.S.H. Prince Ajavadis Diskul 1975 – 1977
  • H.S.H Prince Subhadradis Diskul 1977 – 1999

President Emeritus

Professor William Klausner

Board of Trustees

  • Henry B. Thompson III
  • Professor Prasert Na Nakorn
  • Anek Srisanit
  • Pawapun Bunnag Booth
  • Pinaree Sanpitak
  • Vudthi Nathamethikul

Advisory Board Co-Chairperson

  • Dawn F. Rooney
  • Jane Puranananda

Members

  • Jean-Michel Beurdeley
  • Gridthiya Gaweewong

Foundation consultant

  • Jane Puranananda 

Philosophy and Objectives

The James H. W. Thompson Foundation is dedicated to the conservation and dissemination of Thailand’s rich cultural heritage. Through its support of research, seminars, conferences, exhibitions and publications, the Foundation has endeavored to create a better understanding and appreciation of such traditional Thai art forms as sculpture, painting, literature, dance, song, puppetry and textiles. It is this cultural patrimony which is at the core of Thai identity.

However, Thai identity, and the culture which imbues it, are dynamic, not static. They are constantly evolving. Articulating and extolling the past and its traditions should not be at the expense of appreciating and encouraging those emergent forms of cultural expression which find their inspiration, but not their limits, in the bedrock of traditional culture. Similarly, embracing change and innovation in Thai art forms should not entail a rejection or denial of the value of Thailand’s cultural past. It has been said that “the past is the best prophet of the future.” However, the past and its traditions should not control the future but rather provide a guide to the roots and meaning, the shape and pace of change.

Jim Thompson, in creating an international market for Thai silk, appreciated the value of the past while embracing the creative energy of innovative change. The James H. W. Thompson Foundation, established in his name and infused with and fortified by his love for Thailand and its arts, will continue to both cherish the past and welcome the future.

William J. Klausner
President

Activities

Jim Thompson House Museum

The Foundation operates the Jim Thompson House museum, one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist attractions. The Jim Thompson House Museum is open every day to the public between 9 am and 6 pm. There are guided tours provided throughout the day in Thai, English, French, Japanese and Chinese. Unaccompanied visits are not permitted. In recent years the Foundation has slightly rearranged the collection and rooms in the house in the interest of security and convenience of visitors. However, the Foundation has maintained a general policy of not selling, and, thus, the collection owned by Jim Thompson has remained virtually intact. Two small buildings, formerly servants’ quarters, have been turned into additional museum display space.

Art Center

The mission of the Art Center is to nurture artistic activities and create public awareness of  contemporary arts within social historical context. Among its many activities, the Art Center organizes exhibitions; conducts educational programs; produces publications; and networks and collaborates with local and international cultural institutions.  

Visit the Art Center Website

Other Activities

A contribution to a better knowledge of Ancient Champa, the Indianized kingdoms on the eastern coast of the Indochinese peninsula, that was founded by La Société des Amis du Champa Ancien (Friends of Ancient Champa Society) at the end of 1994. Our intention is to publish recent or ancient texts, documents, archives, photographs, etc.
Read more

Google Arts & Culture Project

Donations to Museum for Southeast Asian Arts exhibitions, books launching;   Series of Public Lectures at the Siam Society over several years period related to Thai history and culture.

Grants

 

2004
Grantee Description
Mahidol University Visit of Cambodian researchers to promote comparative studies of culture in both its traditional and transitional forms e.g. temple painting, ornaments, changes in use of traditional tools and implements.
Faculty of Arts Chulalongkorn University Conference, workshops and performances to foster better understanding between Thailand and Cambodia by bringing together scholars, musicians and dancers.
Siam Society Publication of “Witnesses to Revolution: Siam 1688”, a collection of English language translations of French manuscripts and historical documents related to 17 th century Thai history
Academic Publication Publication of the collected writings of Jeremias Van Vliet related to Ayutthaya in the 17th century
Institute of Asian Studies in cooperation with the International Institute of Asia Studies, Leiden/Amsterdam An international seminar on the illicit traffic of cultural property in Southeast Asia
Thai Khadi Research Institute Research project on the role and function of traditional Mon textiles within Mon communities in Thailand and Myanmar
2003
Grantee Description
UNESCO, Beijing Office Support for an indigenous PRC NGO Cultural Heritage Watch in its initiatives in cultural heritage preservation, particularly of Tai minority populations
Research Grant The creation of an online digital archive, including a web site and web tracking program comprising published and unpublished research, field notes, lectures, maps, photographs of renowned Asian art historian, Dr. Dawn Rooney
Research Grant Field research related to the role and function of traditional Phu Thai textiles in Thailand and Laos
2002 Description
Grantee
Srinakharinwirot University A Thai Classical Dance and Music Group performance of classical Thai dance and music in Malaysia
Siam Society A series of public lectures over a twelve month period related to Thai history and culture
Don Thi Village Wat Committee, Chiang Khong, Chiangrai The design and construction of traditional northern Lanna temple in Chiangrai. This project will help preserve traditional northern Thai architecture and construction techniques
Research Grant and Publication Field research and publication on the role and function of traditional Shan textiles
2001
Grantee Description
Kukrit 80 Foundation Performances of the traditional Khon drama by the Khon Thammasat Troupe to commemorate the 90 th anniversary of M.R. Kukrit Pramj, its founder
Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University Seminar on Lao-Vietnamese relations with special focus on the socio-cultural dimensions of the relationship
Hun Lakorn Lek Joe Louis Puppet Troupe Reconstruction of fifty traditional puppets from the Troupe of national performing artist Sakorn Yangkiawsod after the puppets were destroyed in a fire.
Institute of Security and International Studies, Chulalongkorn University Seminar on Thai-Lao relations with specific reference to the role of the media