The Bangkok National Museum was originally founded by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) around his father, King Mongkut’s (Rama IV) antiquities collection. The National Museum occupies the site of the former Wang Na, the “Front Palace” built for the viceroy, a type of crown prince (Thailand has no primogeniture law. Traditionally, the king appointed his successor, who often was his brother instead of his son). Chulalongkorn removed the post, and the National Museum was established in the old palace in 1887. In 1887, Chulalongkorn ordered Concordia’s museum to be moved to the Front Palace, naming it the “Wang Na Museum” or “Front Palace Museum.”
In 1926 it was renamed the “Bangkok Museum” and later became the National Museum of Bangkok when it came under the management of the Department of Fine Arts in 1934.
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The National Museum consists of three permanent exhibitions: the Thai History Gallery, the Archeology and Art History Collection and the Ethnological and Decorative Arts Collection. The museum is housed in the palace complex built for Viceroy Wang Na in the late 18th century., and several of its buildings are works of art in themselves. The museum’s centerpiece is undoubtedly the Buddhaisawan Temple, built in 1787 to house the image of Phra Buddha Sihing and featuring intricate murals depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. The Red House, a teak building once the private residence of Rama I’s sister Sri Suriyen, is filled with royal furnishing.
The National Museum in Bangkok currently houses three permanent exhibition galleries:
- The Thai History Gallery is in front of the Siwamokhaphiman Hall, a ceremonial building. On display is the inscription of King Ram Khamhaeng, which was included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World program register in 2003. Another exhibit deals with the question, “Where did the Thais come from?”. Artifacts from prehistory to the Bangkok period are also on display.
- The Archaeological and Art History Collections are housed in two parts:
- The Prehistory Gallery at the rear of Siwamokhaphiman Hall.
- The Art History Gallery in the north wing building with sculptures and exhibits from the Dvaravati, Srivijaya and Lopburi periods (before 1257 AD) to the Bangkok period (c. 1782). of the old central palace.
- This collection contains artistic, cultural and ethnographic exhibits such as gold and precious stone treasures, mother-of-pearl inlays, royal emblems and regalia, costumes and textiles, pottery, carved ivory, ancient royal transport, ancient weapons, and musical instruments.
The museum has three main exhibition rooms:
This building was constructed when King Rama I’s successor prince, Maha Sura Singhanat, built the successor prince’s palace. Originally used as a courtroom, it now houses the Thai History Gallery. Budaisawan Chapel – The chapel was built in 1787 to house an important Buddha image, Phra Phuttha Sihing. In the chapel, murals depict scenes from the life of the Buddha.
The Red House:
This teak house was originally one of the private residences of Princess Sri Sudarak, the elder sister of King Rama I. It was moved from the old Thonburi Palace to the Grand Palace of Queen Sri Suriyendra, wife of Rama I King Rama II. Today the Red House is decorated in the style of early Bangkok and represents the royal lifestyle of the past with some items that once belonged to Queen Sri Suriyendra.