National Museum of Cambodia

Katie Duncan
Katie Duncan

Avid traveller living in Phnom Penh

The National Museum of Cambodia houses the world's largest collection of Khmer artifacts and pieces of art. With an exquisite collection of over 14,000 items, including some dating as far back as prehistoric times, the National Museum is a site to behold.

Historical Overview

Built in 1917, the National Museum of Cambodia houses the world’s most extensive collection of Khmer artifacts. The museum, located nearby the Royal Palace of Cambodia, is set in carefully tended gardens. Visitors can explore the museum’s assemblage of artifacts ranging from prehistoric times and the great Khmer Angkorian Empire to more modern times.

The original construction of the National Museum began on August 15, 1917, with French polymath ​​George Groslier’s design. However, it was not until April 13, 1920, that the museum officially opened its doors under King Sisowath. The museum was initially known as Musée Albert Sarraut, named after the then Governor-General of Indochina, until the 1950s. 

On August 9, 1951, the French ceded their authority over the museum to Cambodia, leading to Cambodia’s independence in 1953. Eventually, the museum gained its new name of Musée National de Phnom Penh. In 1966, the museum appointed its first Cambodian director with Chea Thay Seng.

 

National Museum of Cambodia Objectives and Highlights

After a series of renovations and temporary closure during the Khmer Rouge, the museum has continued its mission to promote awareness of Cambodian heritage through educating visitors. Today, the museum oversees other provincial museums throughout the country.

There are four main galleries at the National Museum, which demonstrate the evolution of art throughout Khmer history:

  • Pre-historic
  • Pre-Angkorian
  • Angkorian
  • Post-Angkorian

These collections include the eight-armed Vishnu statue (6th century), portraits of King Jayavarman VII, Buddhist and Hindu objects, and more. Aside from the era, artifacts also fall under the material classifications of bronze, ceramics, stone, and wood.  

Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Cambodia

The National Museum is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. The last admittance is at 4:30 PM. Visitors can purchase tickets at the gates (children and school groups can enter for free). Arrangements for tour guides are also available in many languages, including English, French, and Japanese.

Photography is forbidden inside the galleries to preserve the integrity and longevity of the relics. However, visitors may film or photograph outside the galleries and in the courtyard.

After your tour at the National Museum of Cambodia, you may also wish to visit the Royal Palace or explore the iconic riverfront strip. There, you can find many hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, and markets at your convenience. 

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