The museum, which is over a century old, is both a tourist attraction and a historical symbol for Nepal. As the country's largest museum, it plays an important role in national archaeological work and museum development. Located in Chhauni near Swayambhu, the building that houses the National Museum was once the residence of Nepal’s famous Prime Minister, Bhimsen Thapa of Dharahara fame.
While entering the museum, the Art Gallery on the left displays statues, wood carvings, and paintings. The Buddhist Art Gallery straight ahead displays Buddhist art objects, while the Museum of Natural History is on the right. The museum has a fine collection of ancient Nepalese religious art, amazing weapons and costumes worn in battle in ancient times, a sword gifted by Napoleon III; of particular interest are the Tibetan leather cannon and locally built machine gun. The coin section has a fascinating collection of antique while the Buddhist section preserves thangkas from the 18th and 19th centuries and pieces of old ruins found during excavations.
Because Nepal lacked a proper repository facility prior to the establishment of the Natural History Museum (NHM), specimens collected by foreign scientific expeditions were permitted to be taken out of the country. As a result, much of the scientific research in Nepal's natural history has been conducted in other countries. Nepali scientists, students, and educators had limited access to information about their own country's natural heritage. The museum was founded in 1975 with the goal of serving as a research and education facility in Nepal for both foreign and Nepalese scientists, students, and teachers. The Museum of Natural History has a gallery where the acquired specimens are displayed on a regular basis. With an aim to connect the Nepali people with their country's natural history, and to send a clear message that the Nepalese are the guardians of this fragile natural heritage; to promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of Nepal's flora and fauna.