For those looking to take a trip to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, a trip to the National Museum of Cambodia is an absolute must. There are a great many sites and attractions to enjoy at the museum and you will have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the capital and about Cambodia in general.
Virtually everything about the National Museum helps to make it stand out. It begins with the fact that this museum has the largest collection of Khmer art that can be found on earth. This includes sculptures, ethnographic objects and attractions, as well as materials made out of bronze and ceramic.
Including in the museum are over 14,000 items that date before the time of recorded history all the way up to the present times. There are artifacts from Cambodia, as well as from Thailand and Vietnam. A large number of the early artifacts trace back to the Khmer Empire, which dominated these three countries about 800 years ago.
History of the National Museum
The museum construction began in August of 1917. It was completed on April 13, 1920, which was fitting, because that was the day of the Khmer New Year. In 1924, the building was altered somewhat, where new wings were added to the eastern façade of the building.
In 1951, the control of the museum fell under the control of the Cambodian government after being originally built and controlled by the French. When the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975, they decimated the museum, as much of the city was abandoned. On April 13, 1979, following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, that museum was reopened and many of the artifacts were returned.
What You Will Find in the National Museum
There is a lot to see here, and a place that has to visit if you come to Phnom Penh. Working with the Royal University of Fine Arts, there are a large number of artifacts that can be found here. The intent has been to preserve many of the artifacts that provide knowledge and insight into Cambodian culture.
Here you will find many statues and other relics that date back thousands of years, and show the early inhabitants of this land. The Khmer Empire artifacts demonstrate what a sophisticated culture this was, and how advanced and dominant this empire was for nearly a century.
You will also find many exhibits related to the various cultures and nations that have helped to build and develop Cambodia. There are a large number of influences that have played a part, primarily through imperialistic means. However, a large amount of the art and architecture has seen influence from such nations as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Japan, Portugal, and France. Even the United States has had an influence.
The history of this nation also includes a very deep set of roots in both Hinduism and Buddhism. There are many sculptures and other exhibits that go back hundreds of years. Hinduism was one of the earliest religions in the country, dating back well over 1000 years. Buddhism is the predominant religion today, and has been for several hundred years. This is seen in the array and sheer number of exhibits on display in the museum.
One of the great aspects to the museum is that they share their artifacts with countries from all over the world, helping those throughout the world to learn about the up and coming nation. Cambodian arts and cultural exhibits have been on display in Germany, South Korea, the United States, and France in the last decade and will likely continue to do so. While this is a great opportunity to see these exhibits if you live outside of Cambodia, if you are in Phnom Penh you definitely want to make the National Museum a stop.