The National Museum: Cambodia's Largest Museum of Cultural History - KNT Diary

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

The National Museum: Cambodia's Largest Museum of Cultural History



The National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh is Cambodia's largest museum of cultural history and is the country's leading historical and archaeological museum. 

The museum houses one of the world's largest collections of Khmer art, including sculptural, Khmer ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects. Its collection includes over 14,000 items, from prehistoric times to periods before, during and after the Khmer Empire, which at its height stretched from Thailand, across present-day Cambodia, to southern Vietnam. 

The National Museum of Cambodia is located on Street 13 in central Phnom Penh, to the north of the Royal Palace and on the west side of Veal Preah Man square. The visitors' entrance to the compound is at the corner of Streets 13 and 178. The Royal University of Fine Arts is located on the west side of the museum. The museum is under the authority of the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. The museum buildings, inspired by Khmer temple architecture, were constructed between 1917 and 1924, the museum was officially inaugurated in 1920, and it was renovated in 1968. 

Together with the adjacent Royal University of Fine Arts and its Department of Archaeology, the National Museum of Cambodia works to enhance knowledge of and preserve Cambodian cultural traditions and to provide a source of pride and identity to the Cambodian people. The Museum also serves a religious function; its collection of important Buddhist and Hindu sculpture addresses community religious needs as a place of worship. A permanent exhibition, Post-Angkorian Buddha, supported by UNESCO and a number of individuals and local businesses, opened in 2000 to extend the religious function of the Museum. 

Under the auspices of the Cambodian Department of Museums, the Museum not only manages its own collection, staff, and premises but also supports and oversees all other state-run museums in Cambodia. Its activities are further supported by private individuals, foreign governments, and numerous philanthropic organizations. The activities of the Museum include the presentation, conservation, safekeeping, interpretation, and acquisition of Cambodian cultural material, as well as the repatriation of Cambodian cultural property. Looting and illicit export of Cambodian cultural material are a continuing concern. 

Outside of Cambodia, the Museum promotes the understanding of Cambodian arts and culture by lending objects from its collection for major international exhibitions. This practice was in place before Cambodia’s recent decades of unrest and was reinstituted in the 1990s, starting with an exhibition held at the National Gallery of Australia in 1992. Subsequent exhibitions have been held in France, the USA, Japan, South Korea, and Germany.

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