U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Daniel A. Clune, visited Luang Prabang on December 6 –9, to participate in two handover ceremonies hosted by the Luang Prabang Department of Information and Culture, as well as to officially sign a new grant that will preserve the Buddhist Archives of Luang Prabang . All of these projects were funded by the U.S. State Department’s Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP).
Ambassador Clune’s first handover of the AFCP project to the Department of World Heritage Luang Prabang signaled the completion of the restoration of Wat Xieng Thong, the largest AFCP project in Laos, bringing total U.S. funding for the project to $655,400. The second handover signaled the completion of the multi-year project with the Luang Prabang National Museum, which provided funding to protect, conserve and display historic objects inside the museum.
The ceremony was attended by the Vice-Governor of Luang Prabang, HE Mr. Saysamone Khomthavong; Mr. Onchanh Souvannalit, Director of the Information, Culture and Tourism Department; and Mr. Bounkhong Khouthao, Director of the Heritage Department, and Mr. Somphone Lorvanin, Director of the Luang Prabang Museum. Representing the U.S. side was Ambassador Daniel A. Clune.
The U.S. Embassy has secured funding for AFCP projects in the Lao PDR every year since 2001. During that time, the Ambassadors Fund has supported programs to map and document standing stone sites or menhirs; build displays and trails for tourists at the Menhirs Archeological Park in Huaphan province; train local staff in restoring the murals at historic Wat Sisaket in Vientiane; create an inventory of the artifacts in Wat Ho Prakeo; preserve the artifact collections at the National Museums in Vientiane and here in Luang Prabang; document the unique cultural traditions of the Yao and Lanten people; preserve ancient palm leaf manuscripts throughout the country; and conserve and restore artifacts in Wat Visoun.
In a second ceremony at Wat Kili in Luang Prabang, Ambassador Clune and Project Director of the Buddhist Heritage Project Brian Lingham signed the 2014 AFCP grant, which will provide funding to preserve the Buddhist Archives of Luang Prabang. The Buddhist Archives of Luang Prabang contain collections of national importance and international interest, including: more than 35,000 historic photographs covering 120 years of photography in Luang Prabang and Laos; thousands of documents on paper coming from more than 20 monasteries and private collections; correspondence of key figures of Lao Buddhism documenting major historic events; a unique sound Archive, and important manuscripts from personal collections of key figures in Luang Prabang and Lao Buddhism.
Since its creation by the U.S. Congress in 2001, the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) has provided financial support to more than 800 cultural preservation projects in more than 125 countries. A total of sixteen projects have been funded in Laos, ranging from restoration of temples, to preservation of archeological sites and artifacts, to documentation of cultural traditions, to museum conservation. We are proud to have supported these important projects which will help to ensure that Laos’ rich cultural heritage is preserved for future generations.