Although the Lao National Museum may not be filled with plenty of significant artifacts to make up a national museum, the museum still makes up for it with its often interesting exhibits. The museum was formerly known as the Lao Revolutionary Museum and is housed in an old colonial structure that was built in 1925.
Despite being limited in displays, the museum features a wide range of varied exhibits such as dinosaur bones found in the country, a sandstone sculpture of Shiva (the famous Hindu God), machine guns, and old photos of guerillas that fought American troops before the communists ruled in 1975.
The ground floor is dedicated to the county’s ancient history; it also features the archaeology of the most important water resource of the Lao people, the Mekong River. Artifacts such as drums, pots, tools and dinosaur bones can be seen at the first floor. All of these artifacts are ones that were discovered near Savannakhet. In addition, displays on the history and culture of the Wat Phou and the Plain of Jars can be seen, which can provide visitors with insights that reveal the fascinating cultural heritage of Laos.
The succeeding floor is then divided into a chain of rooms with each displaying pictures and artifacts of the different periods in time starting from year 1353. The exhibit displays the Lao Kingdom during the Lane Xang history until 1707; the three principalities of the Lane Xang division in 1707 to 1779; Siam’s Rule in 1893 to 1945; the French Colonial period from 1945 to 1954; the U.S intervention in 1964 to 1973; the triumphant liberation of Lao in 1975 and the country’s national development since 1975.
Some rather fascinating yet foreboding pieces include the depiction of the violent behavior of the French colonialists towards the Lao people in oil paintings. This theme is then reiterated by old photos of the country’s struggle against the Japanese during the Second World War as well as the American Imperialists during the Vietnam War. Many photos also depict the struggle for power of the Pathet Laos. To sum it up, the exhibit ends with an armament exhibit that would definitely delight any Rambo fan with catch phrases that are guaranteed to bring an abrupt shot of amusement-much needed after seeing such horrifying depictions of history.
Aside from displays of history, war, and revolutions, the last room of the museum provides more interesting exhibits just before you exit. A display of the best Laos trade and commodities such as produce, handiwork and manufactured goods can be seen. Although a bit dated, this portion highlights the country’s geography and commerce and how the nation continues to develop since the 1970s.
Finally, a small museum shop ends the trip to the museum with t-shirts, postcards and souvenir items for sale. Although the Lao National Museum is quite short on artifacts, it does provide interesting insights on the rich culture and history of the country. Visiting the capital city of Vientiane then entails a visit to this museum to learn more about Laos, its history and its people.