National Museum of Cambodia

National Museum of Cambodia artifacts are some of the most unique and fascinating of all museums in the region. The collection is especially notable for the Khmer collection of sculptures; it spans more than a millennium. The National Museum is a great place for visitors wishing to broaden their understanding of pre and post Angkor periods through ancient art and artifacts and to gain a deeper understanding of the Cambodian people. A few hours allows a thorough look around, time to read the history offered behind many of the works, and enjoy a look around the scenic, pleasant outdoor area.

National Museum Artifacts

National Museum Artifacts

The almost century-old building is located on the north side of the Royal Palace; it complements the museum’s elegant terracotta exterior, built in traditional Khmer design between 1917 and 1920. The pretty gardens encircled by the museum and backdrop of dual rivers (Tonle Sap River and Mekong River) add an extra-inviting appeal to the entire picture. Each year more than 100,000 tourists make their way through the museum, exploring the ancient artifacts. Due to the convenient situation of the Royal Palace directly beside the building, most people tour the palace and also visit the museum in the same day. If walking from the northeast side of the city, take the riverfront pathway for a particularly scenic stroll and make a day of it.

Divided into several distinct categories, the National Museum of Cambodia offers a look at prehistoric artifacts, wood, stone, and bronze sculptures, and ethnographic pieces from three predominant Angkor periods. The collections that consistently receive accolades are the bronze and stone sculptures, considered two of the finest of any known.  Some statues represent styling from Phnom Da, a pre-Angkor design approach. The eight-armed Vishnu, one of the stone representations of several Hindu deities that are part of the collection is the most laudable.

Cambodia National Museum

Cambodia National Museum

A masterpiece of Khmer origin, the Reclining Vishnu was carved out in the 11thcentury of pure bronze and was once kept inside Angkor’s West Baray. The effigy is one of the most notable of all statuary works deriving from the Khmer people. Other important works include deity statues that were found in several ancient temples across the country including two representations of Harihara, one of the female Devi, and one of Durga as Mahisasuramardini. Many of these stone effigies are the true stars of the rare and illuminating collection, yet many of the bronze pieces have also gained notoriety throughout the global museum stage. The Khmer-derived bronze statues illustrate the expert precision with which Khmer artists worked in metal mediums during pre-Angkor and Angkor years. The aforementioned bronze reclining Vishnu is one of these spectacular artworks.

The customer service area at the entrance is an excellent source for country guidebooks and photography books as well as souvenirs from the National Museum of Cambodia. Several refreshment kiosks are located outside, conveniently situated by shady palms. The museum’s hours are from 8am through to 5pm each day of the week. A very small entry fee is charged at the door. Photography is allowed inside the museum courtyard but not inside the museum itself. Tours of the museum are an especially good way to deepen understanding of the history behind many of the artifacts. Guides speak English, French, Khmer, Vietnamese, and Japanese. Alternatively, visitors can buy a guidebook and easily accomplish a self-guided tour. English, French, and Khmer labels don all museum exhibits.

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