Behind the scenes at the Malaysian National Museum

While the title suggests political interference and cultural bias, the article informs more about the curation of collections at the National Museum of Malaysia, which may now be too big for its size.

Cabinet interference in museum programmes?
Free Malasia Today, 04 April 2012

It has the trappings of mystery, intrigue and curiosity – elements that would make any self-respecting sleuth hanker for more. The decades-old National Museum, a Kuala Lumpur landmark, is shrouded in tales of an underground lair filled with priceless artefacts and historic curios.

What’s even better is the hushed whispers of those in the know about the repository, which is deliciously rumoured to be haunted with ghostly sightings as witnessed by several museum employees.

But for Kamarul Baharin Kasim, the museum’s director, ‘rumoured sightings’ are as mysterious as things get. For one thing he affirmed that there’s no such thing as hidden vault. But there are however, several storage units around the country that are fast being filled up with more artefacts.

To the question of having accessibility to these storage warehouses, Kamarul said that getting into one of these requires special security clearance and that even he sometimes isn’t made privy to its contents.

“What you see at the main exhibit area is the Permanent Gallery which is split into four areas, namely the Prehistory Gallery and the Malay Kingdoms Gallery on the first floor, the Colonial Era Gallery and Malaysia Today Gallery on the second.

“What you see is probably 30 per cent of what is owned by the National Museum and the other 70 per cent is kept aside for research and documentation or categorised for special exhibits,” he explained.

Apart from the 415,081 artefacts showcased on a daily basis, there are 322,631 archaeological remnants, 64,344 animal and plant specimens and 28,106 ethnological objects under the care of the national museum.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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