Revered works of Cambodian art were welcomed back to the National Museum on Monday after a 20-month international tour.
Ambassadors from Japan, France and the US lauded the tour, which drew some 700,000 visitors worldwide.
The exhibition, “Angkor and Ten Centuries of Khmer Art,” left for Paris in July of 1996, traveled to Washington, DC last autumn, and finished up in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan.
Organizations in Japan, France and the US paid for the transport of the 66 stone, wood and bronze sculptures, said the National Museum’s deputy director, Hab Touch.
Museum officials will spend the rest of the week checking the condition of the statues, which returned via a three-day plane trip from Japan. The statues will be reinstalled over the next two months, Hab Touch said, although some of them are available for viewing now.
“We waited for these objects a long time, and now they’re home,” Hab Touch said.
Concerns to preserve the statues in their traditional home are tantamount. An estimated 2 million bats are still hanging from the museum’s cavernous red roof, despite earlier plans to remove them.
However, discussions between the French government and the Ministry of Culture to renovate the roof and expel the bats have been postponed until after the election, Minister of Culture Nouth Narang said last month.
In February, museum officials announced plans to get rid of the bats. They said the bats were a financial liability, explaining that the droppings—or guano—were entering the museum and revenue from the guano was not covering removal costs.
A $50,000 grant from the International Association of Mayors in France will be used to install a protective ceiling in the next few months, Nouth Narang said. The bats will not be expelled when the ceiling is put in, Nouth Narang said.
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