The museum was established in 2003 by the merging of the two separate museums that had occupied the same building since 1959: the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in the northern wing (originating in the Office of the National Museum of the Revolution founded in 1950 to preserve the legacy of the 1949 revolution) and the National Museum of Chinese History in the southern wing (with origins in both the Beijing National History Museum, founded in 1949, and the Preliminary Office of the National History Museum, founded in 1912, tasked to safeguard China’s larger historical legacy).
The building was completed in 1959 as one of the Ten Great Buildings celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It complements the opposing Great Hall of the People that was built at the same time. The structure sits on 65,000 ㎡ and has a frontal length of 313 meters, a height of four stories totaling 40 meters, and a width of 149 meters.The front displays eleven square pillars at its center.
After four years of renovation, the museum reopened on March 17th, 2011 with 28 new exhibition halls, more than triple the previous exhibition space, and state of the art exhibition and storage facilities. It has a total floor space of nearly 200,000 square meters to display.