Tuesday, July 5, 2011
A pal of mine mentioned the Phnom Penh Museum of Ethnology to me tonight and though I'd heard of it, I've not yet had the pleasure of visiting it. And I don't think too many others have either. For starters, it's not widely known about and is housed in the Tuol Kork home of an individual, so effectively it's a vast private collection. The man responsible for it is historian and ethnologist Dr Michel Tranet, a former undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and those that have seen his Aladdin's Cave of treasures say it's an eclectic but thoroughly fascinating collection of cultural artifacts stretching back way before the time of Angkor. It includes bronzes, manuscripts, sandstone carvings and much more besides. The study of ethnology usually means the comparison and analysis of the origins, distribution, religion, language, and social structure of nations or ethnic groups. There are museums under the same moniker in Vietnam and Laos but I believe the Phnom Penh version differs greatly. In its current form, it's at best a huge personal collection of artifacts assembled by an individual over many decades. At worst, it's a hotchpotch of stuff rarely seen by outsiders. However, if you see the sign on the side of the road, Museum of Ethnology, ring the doorbell and see if you can get a look inside.