The National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh housed a large collection of art work from the Khmer culture, dated back to the periods even before the Khmer Empire. This museum was opened in 1917, but during the Khmer Rouge era (1975-1979) it was abandoned. The museum building was left in disrepair, the roof rotten, and it became home to a vast colony of bats. In 1979, it was repaired and reopened to the public. As we visited the museum more than 30 years later, the museum was already back as an important place to learn about the Khmer art history.
As we entered the museum, the ambience inside the museum reminded me to the National Museum of Indonesia in Jakarta that I visited years ago. The museum building itself was an old building (93 years old, as compared to the Indonesian one that’s almost 150 years old), and it was also started by the colonial government that occupied the land when the museum was founded (the National Museum in Cambodia was founded by the French, while the National Museum in Indonesia was founded by the Dutch). The collections of art work were also similar that they represent the history going back to hundreds of years ago.
I think to really get an appreciation of the importance of the artifacts we’re seeing at this museum, we would need a guide and / or good understanding of the historical context of the culture and time where the artifacts came from. We were on our own and we only had short time to visit this museum, so unfortunately our tour at the museum was very cursory.
The photo below was taken at the courtyard inside the Museum. It’s nicely set up and felt very nice and peaceful to be there.