60-year-old Thai records to return home to Bangkok
A collection of 18 rare Thai musical recordings will return home after more than 60 years kept in storage in Sydney, thanks to the generosity of a private donor and the collaboration of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA).
The records – accompanied by four song books – have been donated by NSW resident Michael Waterhouse. They originally belonged to his uncle Norman Warren ‘Gus’ Waterhouse, a Sydney engineer who supervised the construction of the David Jones Elizabeth St store, and later worked as the South East Asia, Australasia and Oceania representative for US company Aluminium Ltd. in the 1940s and early 1950s.
Based in Bangkok, Gus Waterhouse acquired a number of local 78rpm records, including some by Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who is also an accomplished musician. He eventually brought this collection to Australia.
When he relocated permanently to the US in 1955, Gus Waterhouse left behind many boxes in storage. After his death in 1986, his nephew Michael kept the records safe for the next 26 years.
“After the Second World War things were very chaotic in Asia, so I thought there probably weren’t a lot of copies made of these records, and even fewer would have survived because they break very easily and because of the humidity in Thailand,” explained Mr. Waterhouse. “Over the years people have brought back a lot of material from South East Asia and the Pacific. Often, this material which was taken away from its place of origin and has been well looked after is in better condition than the copies that stayed back in their respective countries.”
Mr. Waterhouse held senior positions with the Commonwealth Treasury and Westpac, and is the author of Not a Poor Man’s Field, a book about Australia’s colonial experience in New Guinea before the Second World War. This interest in history motivated him to try to find a home for his uncle’s Thai music collection.
“There’s a lot of history that gets thrown out and, as an historian, I value the importance of primary records and documents, because they get destroyed so easily and so often. Gus also had a keen interest in history and I felt he would want them to go to a place where they would be appreciated,” said Mr. Waterhouse.
Mr. Waterhouse contacted the Public Relations Department, Thailand’s counterpart to the ABC, which also manages a Museum and Archive. The PRD put him in touch with the NFSA to coordinate the repatriation of the records.
A Thai delegation, led by PRD Deputy Director Ms Tuenjai Sinthuvnik, will visit the NFSA’s Sydney office on 27 August, for a formal handover of the materials with Mr. Waterhouse and NFSA CEO Michael Loebenstein.
Ms Sinthuvnik will be joined by Kannika Chivapakdee, Director of the PRD Museum and Archive, and Sasivimol Boriboonwong, Head of Audiovisual Preservation.
Connecting with Asia
The NFSA works with Asian and Pacific audiovisual organisations and cultural institutions on an ongoing basis, providing a leadership role through active participation in SEAPAVAA (South East Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Archive Association), focusing on professional training, mentorship and archival support.
The NFSA also holds executive positions on both FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives) and IASA (International Association of Audiovisual and Sound Archives), which allows the organisation to further engage with archives in the region and around the globe.
Recent efforts in the region include:
• Production of a collection of historically significant and rare films and photographs, presented by the Australian Government to East Timor to celebrate its 10th anniversary of independence.
• Workshops on audiovisual collection preservation in the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.
• Funding of a survey of Papua New Guinea’s major audiovisual collections.
• Traning of archivists from the National Archives of Malaysia in the restoration and preservation of analogue material.
• Contribution to Sound and Image Collections Conservation training workshops held in Pune and New Delhi, India.
• A SEAPAVAA workshop on a project management approach to an audiovisual collection digitisation project in Thailand.
The records and song books can be viewed on the NFSA’s Flickr channel.
For interviews, contact Miguel Gonzalez on 02 8202 0114 or 0404 281 632, or email@example.com