Workers have begun construction of two new museums that will house some of the nation’s archaeological treasures, and work on a third museum will begin soon, officials said Thursday.
Workers began pouring the concrete foundations of two museums in Banteay Meanchey and Kompong Thom provinces in September, said Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. A third museum will be built in Takeo province, he added.
The new galleries are situated in provinces rich with ancient art, but scarce on places to properly store artifacts, culture officials said.
Provincial museums will not only prolong the life of fragile artifacts, but could boost rural economies, said Hang Soth, director-general of the Ministry of Culture: “When these artifacts are properly stored, they can generate income.”
With no real storage facilities, priceless national heirlooms have been crammed into spare rooms in provincial offices and police stations. More than 1,000 statues confiscated from smugglers at the Thai border are held in Banteay Meanchey province alone, Chuch Phoeurn said in June.
The three new buildings underway are scaled-down copies of the National Museum in Phnom Penh. Each building measures
20 meters by 12 meters, said Chuch Phoeurn. Construction is to be completed in March.
At a cost of roughly $75,000 each, the new museums are financed through a plan that lends Cambodia’s historical artifacts to countries throughout the world, in exchange for financial help in salvaging those stored here.
Earlier this year, the governments of Japan, South Korea and Germany each pledged $100,000 in return for the temporary display of statues from the National Museum’s collection in their own countries. The new museums, and planned renovations to existing provincial museums in Kompong Chhnang and Battambang provinces, are funded with those donations, Hang Soth said.