The best surviving examples of Northern Thai architecture which now serves as an ethnological museum, displaying artifacts associated with the rural way of life in traditional agricultural communities.
An historic house built in 1844 on the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai by Mae (“mother”) Saed, great granddaughter of the Prince of Chae, Kamthieng House brings together many elements of lifestyle and culture in a typical Lanna house of the period. Constructed and passed on through the women of a northern matriarchal lineage, the house is one of the oldest surviving examples of traditional northern Thai architecture.
Exhibits of primary crafts and rituals provide a glimpse of the taste and style of the merchant elite of late Lanna period, between the lifetimes of Mae Saed and her granddaughter, Mae Kamthieng – namesake of the house. Through its first hundred years, the house was pitched at a turning point in Lanna culture, with traditional lifestyle slowly giving way to the prestige of Western taste. But Kamthieng House was to remain a repository of the Lanna spirit, even as the late Professor Kraisri Nimmanhaeminda moved it to the Siam Society in 1962, to become a northern Thai ethnological museum.
The first building was built in 1932 and used as the lecture hall, stage, and library. In 2002, The Association of Siamese Architects Under Royal Patronage gave a special award to the Siam Society for its excellence in the preservation of buildings, namely the auditorium, the Kamthieng and Saengaroon Houses in the compound of the Society. Nowadays, it is used as an auditorium for conferences, seminars, music and performances, and etc.
The Siam Society was founded in 1904 in cooperation with Thai and foreign scholars. The Society quickly became a learned society whose members included many of the most illustrious historians, archaeologists and epigraphers of that period.
The primary purpose of the society's library was to make this information available to its membership and the research community. The library also supports investigation and background information for its many activities: local and international study trips; lectures by noted experts and scholars; art and artifact exhibitions of international standard; classical and contemporary cultural and musical performances; seminars, and publications by the Siam Society including, two international recognized periodicals, the Journal of the Siam Society (JSS) and the Natural History Bulletin (NHB).
From its inception, the Siam Society's objective was to encourage research and information gathering on art, history, culture and natural sciences of Thailand and neighboring countries. In 1924, "Knowledge gives rise to friendship" was adopted as the Siam Society's motto to convey the message that the search for knowledge is the bridge to friendship between nations.
The Siam Society's collection of research manuscripts, books, rare books, photos, micro-film, tapes, videos, maps and traditional manuscripts on palm leaf, and other documents constitute the first non-privately owned library in Thailand.
The Siam Society library is noted for its outstanding rare books collection, most of which is related to Southeast Asia.
The Minute Books of the Siam Society from 1904 have been inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register as a record of international cooperation in research and the dissemination of knowledge in the arts and sciences.
The Siam Society Under Royal Patronage