Conversion from Watch tower to National Museum

By the 18th century Bhutan enjoyed political stability under the reign of the Wangchuck Dynasty. The arts flourished and people enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity. The Ta Dzong lost its primary military function as a watch tower and gradually became redundant, forgotten, and slipped into ruins.

During the reign of His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1929–1972) Bhutan emerged from its self-imposed isolation and opened the country to the outside world. Recognized as the ‘Father of Modernization’, it was during His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck’s reign that the country witnessed the introduction and development of infrastructure for transportation, communications, education, health system and agriculture. He was aptly recognized as “Father of Modernization”. His Majesty paid considerable policy attention to the preservation and promotion of Bhutanese culture and traditions in order to safeguard Bhutan’s identity as a sovereign nation.

In 1960, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck decreed that the historic fortified Paro Ta Dzong be renovated to house the National Museum of Bhutan, the first museum in the country. The renovation to convert Ta Dzong into a museum was initiated under the supervision of the then Ministry of Development. A motor-able approach road was constructed for accessibility and although no significant alterations were made to the exterior structure, the interiors of the building were modified to create galleries to display artifacts of cultural and historic significance.

The National Museum was thus opened in 1965, initially hosting only a few personal guests of the Royal Family, dignitaries and government officials. In 1968, the National Museum of Bhutan was opened to the general public.

By the 1970’s with the introduction and growth of the new tourism sector, the number of museum visitors increased. In between 1974–1975 due to mounting demand, an upgrade of the electrical wiring and lighting was undertaken, and additional galleries were opened. The new exhibits showcased a myriad of Bhutanese works—from thangkas to postage stamps, weaponry to bronze ware. The following year saw continued exhibition projects, including the design and fabrication of showcases in traditional Bhutanese designs, as well as the installation of fire safety equipment throughout the premises. In 2000 with financial assistance from the Japanese Cultural Grant the display units were further improved upon along with rewiring of the electrical components.

Originally built for defensive purposes, Ta Dzong, Paro had been reinvented with a change of function, a reflection of the continued peace, prosperity and stability of the kingdom. Previously used as a military defense post to protect from invading armies, the structure now provides a safe haven for thousands of artistic, cultural and anthropological artifacts. In addition, the National Museum of Bhutan spotlights the kingdom’s natural history and significant national treasures. Until 2001, the National Museum of Bhutan was the only museum in the country, and is a treasure house of significant history, Bhutan’s central encyclopedic museum. 

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