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National Museum Art Gallery Phnom Penh

The Nation­al Muse­um in Phnom Penh is Cam­bo­di­a’s largest muse­um of cul­tur­al his­to­ry and is the coun­try’s lead­ing his­tor­i­cal and archae­o­log­i­cal, includ­ing sculp­ture, ceram­ics and ethno­graph­ic objects from the pre­his­toric, pre-Angko­ri­an, Angko­ri­an and post-Angko­ri­an peri­ods.   In 1951, the French con­ced­ed the con­trol of the muse­um to the Cam­bo­di­ans when it came to be known as Musée Nation­al de Phnom Penh. Lat­er in 1966, Chea Thay Seng became the museum’s first Cam­bo­di­an direc­tor. It bare­ly sur­vived seri­ous dam­age dur­ing the dev­as­tat­ing Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, and the muse­um and its precincts under­went a major refur­bish­ment in the 1990s with con­tri­bu­tions from the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment and oth­er patrons. Backed by the Cam­bo­di­an Depart­ment of Muse­ums, the museum’s role is now not just con­fined to pre­serv­ing its exhibits that include one of the largest col­lec­tions of Khmer arte­facts in the world, but also to over­see oth­er muse­ums in the country. 

National Museum of Cambodia highlights

Housed with­in an impres­sive red sand­stone struc­ture, The Nation­al Muse­um of Cam­bo­dia stands out as a fine illus­tra­tion of the tra­di­tion­al Khmer archi­tec­ture. With over 14,000 inter­est­ing exhibits to its cred­it, the muse­um is tru­ly a trea­sure trove of arte­facts por­tray­ing Khmer and Angko­ri­an cul­ture and his­to­ry. Its exhibits, com­pris­ing bronze/wood sculp­tures, ceram­ic items, ethno­graph­ic items and stone arti­cles are cat­e­gorised into 4 brack­ets: pre­his­toric, pre-Angkor, Angkor and post-Angkor exhibits. One of its most spec­tac­u­lar exhibits is the 8‑armed stat­ue of Lord Vish­nu that dates back to the 6th cen­tu­ry. Anoth­er remark­able attrac­tion is the image of King Jayavar­man VII in a med­i­ta­tion pos­ture that can be seen in the West Gallery, dis­play­ing art­works from Angkor Wat. Vis­it the museum’s Bronze Gallery to take a peek into bronze-cast­ing meth­ods prac­tised dur­ing the Angko­ri­an peri­od from the 6th to 13th cen­turies. Found next to the Bronze Gallery is a rare repos­i­to­ry of post-Angko­ri­an-era Bud­dha images. There’s also a gallery that exhibits a selec­tion of sand­stone sculp­tures dat­ing back to the 6th cen­tu­ry.

Good to know about National Museum of Cambodia

You can find the Nation­al Muse­um of Cam­bo­dia a few blocks away from the Roy­al Palace on Street 13 in Phnom Penh. Admis­sion to the muse­um is nom­i­nal and entry is free for chil­dren and school groups. The muse­um does not per­mit pho­tog­ra­phy with­in the gal­leries. You’re allowed to take pic­tures of the court­yard and exte­ri­or, though. The ser­vices of French- and Eng­lish-speak­ing guides are avail­able. Alter­na­tive­ly, you can pur­chase a book­let that pro­vides rel­e­vant info on loca­tions of the museum’s most promi­nent exhibits. Items such as post­cards, repli­ca sculp­tures and books on art and cul­ture can be bought from the store found at the main entrance. 
The muse­um is equal­ly note­wor­thy for its impec­ca­ble, ver­dant gar­den court­yard with 4 lotus pools. In the cen­tre of the court­yards is a renowned stat­ue of the Lep­er King or Lord Yama – the Deity of Death, accord­ing to Hin­du mythol­o­gy. Fur­ther, the por­ti­co that bounds the gar­den court­yard is notable for its stone works, bas-reliefs, orna­men­tal door lin­tels and sig­nif­i­cant stele con­tain­ing old Khmer as well as San­skrit inscrip­tions – most dat­ing from between the 6th and 11th cen­turies. Adja­cent to the muse­um is the Roy­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Fine Arts, whose ori­gins trace back to the École des Arts Cam­bodgiens that was found­ed in 1918 under the super­vi­sion of George Grosli­er to train stu­dents in the art of bronze cast­ing, tra­di­tion­al draw­ing, fur­ni­ture mak­ing and sculp­ture mod­el­ling, which is still con­tin­ued here. 

National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh

Loca­tion: Preah Ang Eng Street 13, Phnom Penh, Cam­bo­dia Open: Dai­ly from 8am to 5pm   Ref­er­ences