The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) is a museum located in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. It is dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of the traditional arts and lifestyles of the country’s many and diverse ethnic groups. Launched in 2007, TAEC aims to become a centre for learning and exchange on the ethnology and artisanal heritage of Laos, promoting pride and appreciation for the cultures and knowledge of its diverse people. It also supports ethnic minority communities to help safeguard their tangible and intangible cultural heritage and foster a sustainable livelihood development.
What do they do?
TAEC is a very active museum that strives to highlight and sustain traditional know how, pay tribute to craftsmanship as a secular art, support cultural heritage and develop livelihoods of ethnic groups. As such TAEC has developed a range of complementary activities:
Exhibitions (both permanent and rotating) that tell the story of ethnic tribes in Northern Laos, gathering texts, photographs and objects. To date, TAEC has welcomed over 120 000 Lao and international visitors, and has rapidly emerged as a regional leader in cultural heritage management and community development.
Preservation and documentation. TAEC permanent collection consists of 400 objects from 30 ethnic groups and a growing library with a wide variety of materials on ethnology, arts and history of Laos and Southeast Asia in English, Laotian, Thai and French languages.
Advocacy and livelihoods. By fair-trading crafts sourced directly from artisan communities, TAEC promotes handicraft skills and livelihoods based on traditional arts, thus contributing to pride and identity building within the communities whilst reducing the need to sell antiques. On average, 50% of the shop’s income goes directly to the artisans themselves and currently provides over 500 families from ethnic groups in 12 provinces with a supplementary income. TAEC offers small loans and payment upfront, training in product design, quality and small business practices and logistical support.
Education. TAEC Encourages Lao communities and youth to learn about ethnic diversity by offering free admission to all Lao citizens and running school outreach activities and student tours. They also host young people from rural ethnic villages in an internship program and provide professional development and training for cultural and tourism workers.
Research. TAEC conducts primary research in ethnic communities, developing close relationships to localize and enrich the information collected. They actively participate in international ethnology and developing traditional arts scholarship; they are regularly invited to conferences in Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand and to prepare articles in specialized reviews.
How can you help?
In Luang Prabang a visit of TAEC is a must-do. After viewing the exhibitions, flip through a book with a glass of rosella juice at the TAEC Cafe, and stop by the Museum Shop or the TAEC Boutique on the main road to purchase some of their unique fair trade handicrafts.
- US$ 40 pays for a school pack consisting of games, photos and information to leave in classrooms after the school outreach programs.
- US$ 50 provides one community with a new stock of basic medicines for their village health cabinet or, buy archival paper, boxes and foam for safe storage of the collections objects.
- US$ 100 buys 10 pairs of eyeglasses for older embroiderers and weavers.
- US$ 150 pays for an art class to schools outside Luang Prabang, helping raise cultural awareness and sense of ownership of their own heritage.
- US$ 300 covers a loan for one artisan to invest in materials and equipment to produce handicrafts.
- US$ 700 sponsors two young people from a rural ethnic community to follow an internship at TAEC for two weeks, including field trips and learning materials.
- US$ 1 200 will allow training and help set up a new handicraft production based on traditional skills in a community.