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Thailand’s Elephant Museum reinforces the bond between humans and beasts

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Cultural Facilities

Thailand’s Elephant Museum reinforces the bond between humans and beasts

The complex, in Surin Province, was built with 480,000 clay bricks.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | October 13, 2020

The Elephant Museum in Thailand sits on 5,400 sm in Surin Province. Images: Spaceshift Studio

The unique relationship between the people of Thailand and elephants dates back at least three centuries. Elephants were used in war and peace, and in rural villages were domesticated to the point where the beasts lived under the same roofs as humans, with their respective lives virtually inextricable.

Deforestation devastated that bond between elephants and the Kui people in northeast Thailand’s Surin Province, depriving both of food and medicinal plants. The province also incurred severe droughts. These events displaced the Kui and elephants to surrounding towns, begging for food or working in elephant camps.

Last month, as part of the government’s “Elephant World” plan that seeks a safe and prosperous reuniting of the Kui and elephants within their homeland, the Surin Provincial Administration Organization completed its Elephant Museum, which sits on a 5,400-sm site and used 480,000 handmade clay bricks in its construction.

Bangkok Project Studio, the museum’s architect, has incorporated handmade bricks for projects before, including the eight-meter-tall walls of the Kantana Film and Animation Institute, which opened in Nakhom Pathom, Thailand, in 2011; and more recently the Elephant Stadium pavilion at Elephant World in Surin, Thailand, completed in 2015.

The complex's curved walls provide visitors with different perspectives, depending on the time of day.



Visitors can move freely from one exhibit space to another through entries within the walls.


The Elephant Museum, built by Rattanachart Construction, Ltd., is divided into four sections. The first includes a reception area, exhibition room, library, seminar room, and shops for coffee and gifts. The other three sections feature exhibition spaces that touch on the relationship between the Thai people and elephants; the deforestation that places the elephants’ survival at risk; and a message of empowerment, where visitors can take pride in their culture.

The museum divides into four sections.


More than 200 elephants live in Surin Province, and the museum’s exhibits reiterate its people’s disapproval of animal cruelty and exploitation, while projecting hope for the future.

The museum, which was completed last month, is within a complex of buildings that includes a play area for elephants, a research center, and educational facilities. Visitors can circulate from one space to another through openings in arched walls. Indoor and outdoor areas allow for a variety of programming.

The museum includes a play area for elephants.

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