One of Bhutan’s major tourist attractions, the National Museum, housed in Paro Ta Dzong, will re-open only in 2015. The Ta Dzong suffered major structural damage during last year’s earthquake, rendering it inaccessible to the public for safety reasons.
The National Museum’s director, khenpo Phuntsok Tashi, said that renovations are scheduled to begin shortly after structural drawings and other required documentation are completed in April.
More than half of the exhibits from Ta Dzong are now displayed in a two-storey building located above it.
He pointed out that Ta Dzong, once restored, will be equipped with modern facilities, similar to popular museums abroad. This should not only prolong the life of the
museum’s exhibits, but also of the building itself. He said that the museum’s security would also receive a major upgrade, with installation of CCTV and metal detectors, among others.
A route to cater to the physically challenged, that would connect all seven floors of the Ta Dzong, is also being seriously considered.
Khenpo Phuntsok Tashi said that, while it is a highly appropriate time to renovate and restore Ta dzong, it is unfortunate that locals and tourists will not be able to enter the structure until 2015. He said that the structure is itself an “art object”.
With seven floors, the cylindrical building with tapering walls is one of Bhutan’s more unique architectural structures. Khenpo Phuntsok Tashi also explained that the Ta Dzong is a “living museum”, in the sense that locals can visit and pay respect to objects displayed through prostrations, prayer, and offering of flowers and incense.
Khenpo Phuntsok Tashi said that, while the pre-history and contemporary art exhibitions are in storage, the “star” attractions of the museum, like the horse egg and horn, a 12th century arrow head supposed to belong to one of king Gesar’s generals, and a 1,000-year old statue, remain available for public viewing.
Besides current exhibitions on thangkas, ritual dance masks, and arms and armour, the national museum will also be adding a natural history exhibition, showcasing Bhutan’s animal and insect biodiversity in November. The exhibition, funded by DANIDA, will be enhanced through touch screens and audio availability, to provide a sense of realism, said khenpo Phuntsok Tashi.
Some long-term plans include a tribal history exhibition, a botanical garden, and purchasable replicas of art objects.
Construction of the Paro Ta Dzong began in 1649 by Paro penlop Tenzin Drukdra, who was also the half brother of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, explained khenpo Phuntsok Tashi.
Ta dzong was completed in 1651, and served as an outpost and watch tower against Tibetan invasion forces.
In the 1960s, the Ta dzong was renovated and converted into a museum.