Thailand’s first public museum was the National Museum of Bangkok, the largest in Southeast Asia. Thai archaeology, ethnology, culture, history, and art history are highlighted in its collection. The museum was first established in 1874 when King Rama V allowed the public to view a private collection amassed by his father, Rama IV. The museum features a sizable collection of regional Buddhist art from all around Asia, in addition to presenting the nation’s national treasures, which include weapons, clothes, musical instruments, royal transportation, and ornamental items.
The History of Bangkok National Museum
Wang Na, known as “The Front Palace” and the Grand Palace were completed at the same time in 1782. Wang Na’s original grounds originally included a significantly bigger area and were walled in. Viceroys, who were the brothers of the governing monarchs, originally lived at Wang Na. Wang Na was abandoned for a while in the late 1800s following the death of the last Viceroy, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), until being given new life in 1887 when the Royal Museum, which had previously been located within the Grand Palace complex, was transferred to Wang Na. King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) decided to create the new National Museum at Wang Na from all of the structures there in 1926.
The 3 permanent exhibitions in the National Museum
There are three permanent exhibition galleries at the National Museum in Bangkok which are as follow:
- The Thai History Gallery
- The Archaeological and Art History Collection
- The Decorative Arts and Ethnological Collection
The Thai History Gallery
In front of the ceremonial edifice, Siwamokhaphiman Hall stands the Thai History Gallery. The King Ram Khamhaeng Inscription, which was added to the Register of the Memory of the World Program by UNESCO in 2003, is on display. Another display addresses the issue of where the Thai people originally came from. Artifacts from prehistory to the Bangkok era are also on display.
The Archaeological and Art History Collection
There are two parts of the archaeological and art historical collections which are as follows:
- The Prehistory Gallery is located in Siwamokhaphiman Hall’s back area.
- The North Wing Building houses the Art History Gallery, which features artifacts and sculptures from the Dvaravati, Srivijaya, and Lopburi periods (predating 1257 CE) all the way up to the Bangkok period.
The Decorative Arts and Ethnological Collection
The Old Central Palace Buildings’ Display of Decorative Arts and Ethnological Collection. This collection includes artistic, cultural, and ethnographic artifacts such as mother-of-pearl inlay, costumes and fabrics, carved ivory, historic royal weapons, musical instruments, and jewels made of gold and precious stones.
National Museum and its Thai Treasures
Numerous valuables and significant relics will be found inside the Bangkok National Museum. Pottery from Ban Chiang is among the oldest objects on show, dating to prehistoric times (link to Udon Thani). Also, on display for visitors are several religious artefacts from various historical periods, with Buddha, Ganesh, and Vishnu idols taking center stage. the following are some of the National Museum’s highlights:
The first inscription of King Ramkhamhaeng
The prince who would later become King Mongkut is said to have found the famed stone obelisk in Sukhothai in the 1830s (Rama IV). King Ramkhamhaeng, who governed the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai in the 13th century, is mentioned in an inscription on a stone. King Ramkhamhaeng is regarded as a just and enlightened monarch. Because of his contribution to the creation of the Thai alphabet and writing system, he is frequently referred to as the “Father of the Thai Language.”
Royal funeral chariots
The chariots used in royal funeral processions are housed in the Royal Chariot Garage at the National Museum. Since the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty, the magnificent chariots, which are more than 200 years old, have been employed during royal cremation rites.
Phra Buddha Singh image
The history of the Phra Singh statue is lengthy and intricate for such a small figure. Although its exact age and origin are unknown, the original Phra Singh picture is believed to have originally emerged in Sri Lanka in the second century. There are at least three sculptures of Phra Singh throughout Thailand, all of which assert to be the original, adding to the mystery. A variation can also be found in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, in addition to the one in the National Museum in Bangkok.
For non-Thais, entry is 200 Baht (5.19 USD). From Wednesday through Sunday, the museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. At 3:30 p.m., the last ticket is sold. On holidays often, the museum is closed.
The National Museum Volunteers offer free guided tours every Wednesday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in English and French, Japanese exclusively on Wednesdays, and German only on Thursdays.
Where is the National Museum?
Between the National Theatre and Thammasat University, to the north of the Grand Palace complex, is where you’ll find the Bangkok National Museum. Tha Chang (N9) and Tha Phra Athit/Banglamphu are the closest Chao Phraya River boat ports (N13).