U Thant’s residence during 1951-57 was rediscovered by his family in 2012 and, after extensive renovations opened in 2016 as a centre for learning and dialogue and a museum featuring a permanent exhibition of his life and work.
No. 31 Windermere Crescent: Part of a collection of houses known as the Windermere Estate, the house at no. 31 Panwa Lane (originally 31 Windermere Crescent) was built in the 1920s to house British officials during the colonial period. After independence, the estate was used for high-ranking officials of the Burmese government. U Thant lived here with his wife and children from 1951 to 1957 when he was serving as Secretary to Prime Minister U Nu, whose official residence was nearby. It was his last residence in the country before he moved to New York to become Burma’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Rediscovery & Renovation: Tracing the old address, U Thant’s family found his former residence in 2012; uninhabited and semi-derelict. The family established U Thant House Trust as a registered Myanmar non-governmental organization, and leased the house from the Government of Myanmar. Over 2013-15, the house and grounds were extensively renovated with the help of the Yangon Heritage Trust, the assistance of dozens of professional architects, engineers, designers, and the generous in-kind and financial support of private citizens and local companies.
U Thant Exhibition: In January 2016, a permanent exhibition entitled “U Thant, His life and Legacy” was launched and U Thant House opened to the public as a museum three days per week. Set within the rooms U Thant lived and worked in, the exhibition covers his early life, work, and varied accomplishments. Visitors can explore Myanmar and Cold War history through photographs, newsreels, and books on topics from Myanmar’s early post-independence years to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. In U Thant’s spirit, it is hoped that his former home will continue to serve the community and the public, as a source of inspiration for visitors in Myanmar and from around the world.
Dialogue & Discussion: Over just a few short years, U Thant House has established a broad-based support in Myanmar, hosting individuals and groups from across the political spectrum as well as international figures and scholars from around the world and developed an education programme tailored to Myanmar students. We have also established an online presence comprising two websites (one specifically for U Thant House and another focussed on Myanmar history), as well as a significant social media following.
During 2013-19, U Thant House has:
Organized seminars and workshops around pressing issues for key players of all political affiliations, including parliamentarians, government ministers, senior Tatmadaw personnel, leaders of ethnic armed organizations, top scholars, and prominent civil society representatives.
Hosted international guest speakers and discussants including peace mediators and chief negotiators in Colombia, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines, as well as heads of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, and peacekeeping operations.
Held U Thant Memorial Lectures annually and other public events attended by guests that have included the president of Myanmar (U Htin Kyaw) and other leading public figures.
Produced a permanent bilingual exhibition: U Thant – His Life and Legacy, and a 25-minute long documentary with archival footage of U Thant, narrated in Burmese and subtitled in English. The exhibition currently receives over 5,000 visitors annually, 75% of whom are Myanmar citizens.
Developed an education programme targeted at youth aged 12-26. The programme emphasises peace and tolerance and is designed to inspire reflection on U Thant’s core values and how they apply to the daily lives of students in terms of upholding human dignity, challenging prejudice, and promoting nonviolence, and caring for the earth. Over 2,000 students participated in the 2019 pilot phase.
Built a strong and active online presence through a website dedicated to exploring Myanmar history in a global context (www.lostfootsteps.org), which has attracted nearly 400,000 individual users since its launch in May 2018, as well as an affiliated Facebook page with over 250,000 followers.