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 in Manila. The institution also operates numerous branch museums throughout the country.
The National Museum began as 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 to 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 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 contributing 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.