13 July 2007 (The Star) – A parliamentary debate over the deplorable state of Malaysia’s museums collections reveal and underlying problem: the process of colonialism have led to the exodus of many artefacts, which have now remained unrecoverable due to high prices. Is this the full story? I’m inclined to think that it’s more than that… the example cited in this story – about Sir Stamford Raffles’ letters – does not make sense. Just because Raffles wrote about Malay customs, does that automatically Malaysian property?
Museum without originals
he Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry has denied a claim by a senator that Muzium Negara was a third-class museum as it showcases only â€œphotocopied picturesâ€ rather than original documents and artefacts.
Its deputy minister Datuk Wong Kam Hoong said the museum was unable to display original artefacts because many of them had been taken out of the country during the colonial era.
The high price quoted by sellers to acquire the artefacts was another reason, he said.
â€œAfter the collapse of the Malacca Sultanate, we were colonised for 500 years. During the period, many artefacts of historical significance were taken out of the country.
â€œSince the artefacts were not smuggled out or stolen, we tried to buy them from foreign owners but they asked for exorbitant prices,â€ he said, refuting the claim by Senator Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi in the Dewan Negara yesterday.
Among the items Malaysia tried to buy were letters written by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who was highly knowledgeable on Malayan history and Malay customs.
Read the full story about Malaysian museums.
Books featuring the museums of Malaysia:
– Museum Treasures of Southeast Asia by B. Campell
– Museums Of Southeast Asia by I. Lenzi
– Extraordinary Museums of Southeast Asia by K. Kelly