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National Museum of the Philippines

History and museums
museum, landmark

The National Museum of the Philippines (Filipino: Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas) is a government institution in the Philippines and serves as an educational, scientific and cultural institution in preserving the various permanent national collections featuring the ethnographic, anthropological, archaeological and visual artistry of the Philippines. Since 1998, the National Museum has been the regulatory and enforcement agency of the National Government in the restoring and safeguarding of important cultural properties, sites and reservations throughout the Philippines.

The National Museum operates the National Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, and National Planetarium, all located in the vicinity of Rizal Park.



The National Museum began as the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History, and Commerce in 1901 under the Department of Public Instruction through Philippine Commission Act No. 284. It was subsequently transferred under the Department of Interior as the Bureau of Ethnological Survey after the passage of the Philippine Commission Act No. 841 in 1903. This new bureau was responsible for the Philippine participation in the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. After the exposition, it was abolished as a separate bureau and was renamed the Philippine Museum.

The National Museum went through the division and distribution of its functions to other government agencies. The Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 4007 in 1933 abolishing the museum and appropriated its divisions to the following agencies: the Division of Fine Arts and History to the National Library, the Division of Ethnology went to the Bureau of Science, and the Division of Anthropology which included archaeology, ethnography and physical anthropology and the other sections of natural history of the Bureau of Science were organized into a National History Museum Division. The latter was transformed into an independent unit under the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce through Commonwealth Act No. 453 in 1939.

The Japanese Occupation brought back the divisions under the National Museum of the Philippines as provided by Philippine Republic Executive Order No. 94. But the museum will lost a large part of its collection during the liberation of Manila when the Legislative Building was destroyed by American artillery. Fortunately, the Legislative Building was immediately restored through the American reparation funds bringing the museum back to its operations.

The museum’s role in cultural growth was recognized as contributory to government’s desire for national development. It was revitalized in 1966 when President Ferdinand Marcos signed Republic Act No. 4846 or the Cultural Properties and Protection Act. The law designated the museum as the lead agency in the protection and preservation of the nation’s cultural properties through the conduct of census, study, and declaration of such properties and the monitoring and regulation of archaeological exploration, excavation, or diggings in historical or archaeological sites. With its new powers, it was able to strengthen its cultural mandate by declaring properties, structures, and sites of historical and cultural value to the nation. The educational mandate was strengthened because it was able to inform the public of the researches it conducted and through the acquisition and exhibition of archaeological finds.



National Museum of Fine Arts

The National Museum of Fine Arts, formerly called the National Art Gallery, is housed in the old Legislative Building. The building was originally intended as a public library as proposed in Daniel Burnham's 1905 Plan for Manila. Designed by Ralph Harrington Doane, the American consulting architect of the Bureau of Public Works, and his assistant Antonio Toledo. Construction of the building began in 1918 and completed in 1921.

The façade of the building had classical features using stylized Corinthian columns, ornamentation and Renaissance inspired sculptural forms. Upon the establishment of the Commonwealth government, it was decided that the building would also house the Legislature and revisions were made by Juan Arellano, supervising architect of the Bureau of Public Works.

On July 16, 1926, the building was formally inaugurated. During the World War II, the building was heavily damaged, though built to be earthquake resistant. After the war, it was rebuilt albeit less ornate and less detailed. During the Martial Law era, the Legislative Building was closed down. Today, the building holds the country's National Art Gallery, natural sciences and other support divisions.

National Museum of Anthropology

The National Museum of Anthropology, formerly called the Museum of the Filipino People, is a component museum of the National Museum of the Philippines that houses the anthropology and archaeology divisions. It is located in the Agrifina Circle, Rizal Park, Manila adjacent to the main National Museum building which houses the National Art Gallery. The building was formerly housed by the Department of Finance.

National Museum of Natural History

It was recently announced that the third building of this museum complex — the one presently occupied by the Department of Tourism, shall be developed into the Museum of Natural History, once the Department moves out and transfers to its permanent location in Makati. The National Museum of Natural History will have a hexagonal DNA tower structure in its center which will be the base for the ventilating roof-dome of the whole building. Living trees will also be planted within the interior of the building. It is expected to be finished in the last quarter of 2015.

National Planetarium

The Planetarium was planned in 1970’s when former National Museum Director Godofredo Alcasid Sr. with the assistance of Mr. Maximo P. Sacro, Jr. of the Philippine Weather bureau and one of the founders of the Philippine Astronomical Society.

The building started on construction on 1974 and completed 9 months after. It was formally inaugurated on October 8, 1975. The Presidential Decree No. 804-A, issued on September 30, 1975, affirmed the Planetarium’s status. The Planetarium is located between the Japanese Garden and the Chinese Garden at the Rizal Park.

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