Le Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient or the EFEO generously allowed Xieng Khouang Museum’s curator, Dr. Linda McIntosh, to use historical images of Xieng Khouang Province housed in its extensive digital database in the museum’s exhibits. Some of these photographs were taken over 100 years ago! When the country was part of Indochina, colonial administrators, researchers, and others took the photographs while visiting or living in Xieng Khouang and other parts of Laos. Daily life, domestic and religious architecture, the Plain of Jars, important persons in Xieng Khouang’s history, and new economic ventures introduced by the French are some of the subjects illustrated in the database.
The digital database allows us a glimpse of life in Xieng Khouang during different time periods, serving as an invaluable record of the province’s history and culture. Many of the temples in the photographs were destroyed during the civil wars of Laos and never rebuilt. Traditional attire depicted in the images is rarely or no longer observed today. Books published by the EFEO were another important source of materials for the museum’s exhibits.
The EFEO has a center in Vientiane, the national capital of Laos. Learn more about the EFEO’s role in Laos.
“In 1951 the Laotian government entrusted the EFEO with the mission to preserve and restore its historical monuments and to manage the nation’s museums. At the same time, the EFEO was authorized to carry out archaeological excavations. The School’s official presence in Laos led to the arrival of the art historian and philologist Henri Deydier, the ethnologist Charles Archaimbault – renowned for his comparative work on Laotian principalities, and Pierre-Bernard Lafont, who resided at the Centre until 1966.
Earlier in the 20th century, Henri Parmentier conducted the first research on the religious architecture of Laos and the Khmer temple Vat Phu, while Madeleine Colani carried out a pioneering investigation of a proto-historic site, the Plain of Jars. A new cooperation agreement, reached in 1993, with the Laotian Ministry of Information and Culture enabled the EFEO to open a Franco-Laotian Centre for Buddhist and Historical Studies in Vientiane.
Current research at the EFEO Centre in Vientiane is primarily conducted in historical studies based on philology and epigraphy; however, the Centre also undertakes work in disciplines such as ethnology, art history and archaeology. The sum of this activity contributes to a wider program of multidisciplinary research on Buddhist societies spanning Asia, from India to China.
The Vientiane Center includes a library for the humanities and social sciences – the only research library in Laos.”