National Angkor Museum not really "national" or "Angkor"?

The International Herald Tribune writes about the newly-opened National Angkor Museum that has drawn criticism for not being really “national” (as it is Thai-owned) or “Angkor” (contains mainly pre-Angkorian relics).

National Angkor Museum, International Herald Tribune, 02 July 2008

A new museum puts a Thai imprint on Angkor
International Herald Tribune, 02 July 2008

But the new museum has picked up powerful detractors, especially among the tight-knit international restoration community that casts a hypercritical eye over what happens at Angkor.

The name has drawn the most controversy. The vast majority of offerings come either from pre-Angkorian times or from centuries after. Then, as the Siem Reap-based historian Darryl Collins pointed out, an enterprise that is foreign-owned and “primarily interested in turning a profit” can hardly be called national, especially when Cambodia already has a National Museum.

Collins is among those concerned that the new venture will deter tourists from visiting the National Museum in Phnom Penh, with its profusion of Khmer treasures spanning several centuries. For the Cambodian cognoscenti, too, the Angkor National Museum’s appearance on the scene seems ominous, especially given centuries-old sensitivities concerning Thai designs on Cambodian patrimony.

Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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