The museum is located in the former palace of the vice king (or Front Palace), set between Thammasat University and the National Theater, facing Sanam Luang. The museum was established and opened in 1874 by King Chulalongkorn to exhibit the royal collections of his father King Mongkut.
Today, the galleries contain exhibits covering Thai History back to Neolithic times. The collection includes The King Ram Khamhaeng’s Inscription, which was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme registered in 2003 in recognition of its significance.
In addition to preserving and displaying Thai artifacts dating from the Dvaravati, Srivijaya, to Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, the museum also displays extensive collections of regional Asian Buddhist Arts such as Indian Gandhara, Chinese Tang, Vietnamese Cham, Indonesian Java, and Cambodian Khmer arts.
As of April 2019, the museum is nearing the end of a decade-long renovation of its exhibition rooms. Twelve halls have been revamped already. Four more halls will be renovated over the next three years. All will receive new interiors, better lighting, and computer-aided multimedia displays.