The National Museum started in 1901 as the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History and Commerce under the Department o f Public Instruction by virtue of Act No. 284 passed by the Philippine Commission. The name was changed in 1903 to Bureau of Ethnological Survey under the Department of Interior. After the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 the Office was renamed the Philippine Museum. The Bureau of Ethnological Survey which had a division called the Philippine Museum was abolished as a separate bureau and was made merely a Division of Ethnology under the Bureau of Education by virtue of Act No. 1407. In 1906, the Philippine Commission transferred the Division of Ethnology of the Bureau of Education to the Bureau of Science which had other branches of Natural Science such as botany, geology and paleontology, entomology, ichthyology, herpetology and mammalogy.
In 1916, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 2572 organizing the Philippine Library and Museum from the former division of archives, patents, copyright, trademarks and corporation of the executive bureaus; the former law library of the Philippine Assembly and the former Philipine Library. The Division of Ethnology continued to function under the Bureau of Science. In 1926, Act No. 3437 passed by the Philippine Legislature recreated the National Museum of the Philippines as part of the Department of Agriculture and National Resources and these consisted of the Ethnology Division and the Division of History and Fine Arts. The Division of Natural Science was not included in the organization.
Again in 1933, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 4007 abolishing the National Museum and distributing its activities, functions and materials to the following:
1. The Division of Fine Arts and History to the National Library;
In the same year, two Presidential Proclamations on culture were issued by the President of the Philippines, pursuant to the 1987 Constitution, giving priority programs to the arts and culture. These were Presidential Proclamation No. 269, proclaiming the period from 1988 to 1998 as "The Decade of Centennials of the Filipino Nationalism, Nationhood and the Philippine Revolutionary Movement" and Presidential Proclamation No. 270 authorizing the National Museum to conduct a National Educational and Fund Campaign for the period June 12, 1988 to June 12, 1989.
In mid-1996, the Philippine Senate, in a historic move, vacated the Senate Chambers of the Executive House paving the way for its turn over to the National Museum thus providing the institution with the three buildings within the Agrifina Circle that would now form the National Museum precinct, the heart and soul of the National Museum system.
On February 12, 1998, President Fidel V. Ramos approved and signed Republic Act No. 8492, also known as the 'National Museum Act of 1998' that established a National Museum System and provided for its permanent home, among others.
In June 1998, the new National Museum located at the former
Finance Building precinct was opened with the formal inauguration
of the National Museum of the Filipino People and the exhibition of the
permanent exhibit, The Story of the Filipino
People, and the world-class travelling exhibit, The
Treasures of the San Diego, which was returned to the Philippines
after its world tour of Paris, Madrid, New York and Berlin. The formal
inauguration formed a key part of the grand celebration of the Philippine