George Groslier (1887-1945), historian, curator and author was the motivating force behind much of the revival of interest in traditional Cambodian arts and crafts, and it was he who designed this quintessential building that is today synonymous with ‘traditional Khmer’ architecture. It is perhaps better described as a building enlarged from Cambodian temple prototypes seen on ancient bas-reliefs and reinterpreted through colonial eyes to meet museum-size requirements.

Groslier’s intended museum was soon associated with the Ecole des Arts Cambodgiens (1917) and became known as the Musée du Cambodge in 1919. In 1920, this museum was soon to be officially renamed Musée Albert Sarraut after the then Governor-General of Indochina.

The foundation stone for the new museum was laid on 15 August 1917. Some two-and-a-half years later, the completed Musée Albert Sarraut was inaugurated during Khmer New Year on 13 April 1920 in the presence of H.M King Sisowath, François-Marius Baudoin, Résident-supérieur, and M. Groslier, directeur des Arts cambodgiens, and conservateur du Musée.

The original design of the building was slightly altered in 1924 with extensions that added wings at either end of the eastern façade that made the building even more imposing. Early directors of the museum from the 1920s-1940s contributed greatly to knowledge of the rapidly expanding collection -Groslier himself catalogued the collection, followed by Jean Boisselier and Solange Thierry (interim Director) who added their individual talents to cataloguing and management.

Control of the National Museum and Arts Administration was ceded by the French to the Cambodians on 9 August, 1951 and following Independence in 1953, the then Musée National de Phnom-Penh was the subject of Bilateral accords (7 November 1956). From 1956 to 1966, the museum continued to flourish under the direction of Madeleine Giteau, Conservatrice du Musée National. 1966 marked the appointment of Chea Thay Seng, the first Cambodian Director of the National Museum and Dean of the newly created Department of Archaeology at the Royal University of Fine Arts. This university that from its foundation as the Ecole des Arts Cambodgiens in 1920 was intimately linked with students, artisans and teachers who worked to preserve Cambodian cultural traditions, can still be found to the rear of the museum. The museum closed between 1975 and 1979, the years of Khmer Rouge control and re-opened on 13 April 1979.

abundant and universally admired of stone sculptures, pewter.