The National Museum of Rwanda was created on April 20, 1989 by Presidential Order number 240/14. Its creation was the crowning achievement of a long process initiated in 1947. In 1947 the Centre of Social Sciences was created in Astrida (now called Butare). Starting that year Belgian researchers began gathering significant ethnographical and archaeological objects.
In 1955, the King of Belgium His Majesty Baudouin 1st visited Rwanda. After his visit the first exhibition was created. That exhibition marked the birth of the "Museum of Rwanda".
During an official visit to Rwanda in 1970 King Baudouin visited the INRS Museum. In light of the importance of this museum and its limited accommodations and resources, an official delegation agreed that Belgium would build a new and larger museum.
In March of 1972, the Rwandan Government ordered the creation of a national museum. However, building and work on exhibitions did not start until 1987. At that time a team of researchers from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren began preparing the exhibitions in collaboration with the National Institute of Scientific Research. The work was not completed until 1989. The National Museum of Rwanda was inaugurated on September 18, 1989, and the following day the museum was opened to the public. In April of 1994, during the genocide and political massacres, the Museum was closed. It was then reopened to the public in August of 1994. In spite of the tragedies of 1994, the museum has been expanded and enriched: in 1995 a ballet was created, in 1997 a training center for crafts was opened and in 1998 a section for Modern Art was created