Angkor National Museum

Angkor National Museum project has been initiated from the granted contract to “Build, Cooperate and Transfer (BCT)” between the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, APSARA Authority (MCFA & APSARA) on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and The Museum Co., Ltd. on its 30 year concession period.

Angkor National Museum is a profound cultural landmark in Siem Reap placing in the area of 20,000 Sq.m. which combined together The Museum: The world-class museum that reveals the legend of Golden Era of Khmer Kingdom, and The Museum Mall: The lifestyle landmark providing completed facilities and recreation services for both tourists and local community.

Angkor National Museum- The Legend Revealed

During the Golden Era of Khmer Kingdom, one of the ancient civilizations of this world was being created. It is the origin of Khmer art, culture, and architecture. These great inventions became one of the few wonders of the world that still amaze people through out generations that still lays a great impact in present Cambodia society.

Angkor National Museum takes pride in revealing the royal historical path of this Golden Era of Khmer Kingdom through the state of the art multimedia technology to provide visitors a full picturesque story of the legend in an easy understanding way.

Angkor National Museum will take its visitors through the journey back in time from the creation to the highest point of civilization. Through the use of interactive exhibits, visitors will develop a deeper understanding of custom, tradition and different beliefs of the ancient empire. A tour of the museum will be joyful for both visitors who have a good understanding of ancient Khmer civilization and visitors who do not have any previous knowledge of the ancient Khmer empire. All artifacts will be divided into 8 galleries in perceptive order of the evolution which are enhanced by a realistic atmosphere. Throughout the whole experience Angkor National Museum will allow this legend to slowly reveal before your eyes.

Visiting the Angkor National Museum was an eerie, surreal experience. For the first 45 minutes of our trip through the mammoth, 20,000-square-metre building, we didn’t spot another visitor. The museum opened in November 2007, and its freshly painted, shopping mall-like feel contrasts with the thousands-year-old artefacts contained within it. A visit is a comfortable, air-con alternative to visiting the temples themselves, and a nice educational supplement to the history of Angkor if you visit the park without a tour guide. It’s composed of eight separate galleries, all connected by a vaulted corridor with a series of fountains and lined with what seems like all the Angkorian limestone lion and demon heads missing from statues at the temples. After an explanatory film screening called Story behind the legend, you’re pointed toward the galleries:

Gallery 1: 1,000 Buddha Images

This is the only gallery that’s just one large room, rather than a series of maze-like alcoves, and the sight of all these Buddhas at once is striking. Hundreds of small and miniature Buddha figurines, made of metals, jewels and wood, all individually illuminated, line the walls here, identified according to the period they were made during and where they were discovered. In the centre, life-size and larger Buddha characters are displayed. The display includes Buddhas from Banteay Kdei, Bayon, Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear.

Gallery 2: Pre-Angkor Period: Khmer Civilisation

This gallery and all the subsequent ones combine mural-size explanations and short films through maze-like rooms explaining Angkorian history. The styles of figurines precede the trademark Angkor style, and there’s a large collection of lingas, lintels and colonnettes.

Gallery 3: Religion and Beliefs

This room explains several of the most significant Hindu and Buddhist religious stories and folk tales depicted on Angkorian temples, including the most memorable Churning of the Sea of Milk carved into the rear wall at Angkor Wat. Carvings of Buddhist and Hindu religious figures are concentrated here as well.

Gallery 4: The Great Khmer Kings

The gallery focuses on King Jayavarman II, Yasovarman I, Soryavarman II and Jayavarman VII, those most responsible for Angkor’s greatest constructions. Figures of the kings and relics from the temples they commissioned abound.

Gallery 5: Angkor Wat

There’s a large film gallery inside this section of the museum. It features beautiful, panoramic images of the temple and explanations of how it was constructed. There are also many restored figures from the temple itself as well as post-Angkorian wooden statues used for worship at the temple until several hundred years ago.

Gallery 6: Angkor Thom

In addition to recovered artefacts from Angkor Thom, this gallery includes a history of and artefacts from the vast irrigation projects commissioned by the king who built Angkor Thom with his smiling face looking out from every tower: Jayavarman VII.

Gallery 7: Story From Stones

This room is one of the most interesting. It’s a collection of stone pallets with ancient Khmer and Sanskrit inscriptions. The writing on each slate is explained on placards below. The writing on them includes the declaration of the construction of a new hospital, lists of slave names, mediations of land disputes and adulations of kings and gods.

Gallery 8: Ancient Costume

From Apsaras and kings to princesses and warriors, this room contains the busts and statues of distinct fashions and styles as they evolved throughout Angkor time. There’s also a collection of ancient jewellery and headdresses. It’s a clever segue to the final room — the gift shop — where upscale imitations of these fashions abound.

It’s $12 to enter the museum, plus another $3 if you want to bring in your camera and another $3 for an educational headset. Sadly, like ticketing and management of the Angkor park, the museum is owned and run by a private company, so little of your admission money goes to Cambodia or to temple restoration (though what the company paid for the concession might). Still, it’s perhaps better than these artefacts remaining in the hands of private collectors. A connected mall is still under construction but has a few open stores, including a Blue Pumpkin satellite, several souvenir shops and the sure sign of apocalypse.