In 1983, the University of the Philippines laid the cornerstone for a building to house Mr Vargas’s collection, originally displayed in a private museum within the premises of his residence at the Kawilihan compound in Mandaluyong. The transfer of the objects to the Diliman campus began in 1986. The museum building was formally inaugurated by President Corazon C. Aquino on February 22, 1987, almost nine years after Mr Vargas donated his collection to the University of the Philippines.

The multi-level architecture of glass and concrete by Honorato Paloma, advocate of tropical architecture, was designed to support the museum’s diverse functions.