August 20, 2022
With the structural restoration of the historic Wangduechhoeling Palace completed, the Bhutan Foundation, in collaboration with the Department of Culture, is now working on the gallery plans, narratives, and exhibits for a world-class Palace Museum and Cultural Centre with the help of professional teams from Bhutan, India, and the United States. A formidable challenge that the project faces is the lack of artifacts to augment the storytelling and narratives to enrich the visitor experience.
However, the goodwill and generosity of old friends of Bhutan have helped inject a renewed vigor into the project. A rare sacred Tashi Gomang, old silk applique thangkas, an 18-19th century Karmapa statue, traditional amulets and jewelry, and textiles indigenous to Bumthang are among the numerous artifacts that were generously gifted to the Wangduechhoeling Palace, adding to the growing trove of tangible heritage that can be integrated into the museum exhibits.
To build a museum and cultural center around available artifacts, informed by interesting narratives, has been a journey of collective endeavor since its inception. Therefore, the magnanimity of these gifts is greatly appreciated. Most notable among them is the Tashi Gomang, translated as ‘the many doors of good fortune’, a traveling shrine representing the copper-coloured palace of Guru Padmasambhava, dating back to the 18th-19thcentury. There are only 35 such relics recorded in the country by the Tashi Gomang Project.
Creating intentional accessibility and inclusivity for the public, the Palace project aims to safeguard the country’s rich heritage and pass it on to the next generation of Bhutanese. The Wangduechhoeling Palace Project is implemented under the guidance of Her Majesty Gyalyum Tseyring Pem Wangchuck. It aims to be a cultural hub, a place where people from all backgrounds can come together to connect with the exhibitions, immersive programs, and stories in their many forms, to gain a greater understanding of Bhutan’s history and culture in general, and that of the Palace and Bumthang specifically. And all this will happen within the architectural grandeur of a Palace that has historic significance as the seat of Bhutan’s monarchy.
The generosity of the extraordinary gifts is owed to the Hoch and Oltramare families of the United States and Switzerland respectively, who have been friends of Bhutan through generations. Michael and Nancy McClelland from Los Angeles, and Diana Myers from Washington, DC also gifted several artifacts from their collections. With this gesture of goodwill and generosity, it is hoped that the project will receive other significant contributions from well-wishers within Bhutan and elsewhere.