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The Matho Project, Ladakh

A 470 m2 museum on three floors is being created at the Matho monastery in Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas. The aim is to keep and make accessible the monastery’s collection of Buddhist art. This collection covers an enormous cross-section of Buddhist art from the Himalayas.

Construction work began in 2011, with the museum inaugurated on 1 July 2016. Three different themes are addressed on the three floors:

A journey back into the past illustrates the origins of the various styles and the unique craftsmanship.

A Who’s Who of Buddhas, Bodhisattwas, divinities, lamas, as well as an overview of Buddhist philosophy.

It offers a magical voyage through the history of the Matho monastery and its monastic rituals.

The project was initiated by a young Frenchwoman, an expert in the restoration of ancient artworks and cultural items from northern India, in close co-operation with the Matho monastery. Women from the region are being trained to practise this handicraft and will thus in future be able to introduce the restoration of precious old cultural items and artworks into other monasteries. Only traditional and natural construction materials – the trees and earth of the Matho Valley – were used by local craftsmen in the building of the museum. After the opening, the monks and restorers will be jointly responsible for running the museum and conducting guided tours. Local jobs are thus secured, while a museum shop will cover operating costs. Rising numbers of visitors will also provide employment opportunities for local people.

The completion of the project has involved numerous people, ranging in age from 20 to 65 from all over the world. Restorers work alongside art students from Paris. Monks instruct language researchers from Vienna. Men and women from the village are directed by hipster architects from Berlin.

The result is an inspiring mixture of traditional wisdom and innovation.