Located in the heart of the city of Kuala Lumpur and set amongst its neighbourhood of historical buildings and romantic parkland, Muzium Negara’s architecture is a fine blend of the traditional Malay style and modern lines. The museum building, apart from being stimulative from the point of tradition also presents a panaromic view of the development of Malaysia, as depicted by the two large murals of Italian glass mosaic which extend across the Museum’s facade. Muzium Negara was officially opened on 31 August 1963, is a repository of Malaysia’s rich cultural and historical heritage.
Muzium Negara is a three storied structure of 109.7 meters long and 15.1 meters wide and 37.6 meters at the central point. The museum houses four main galleries specialising in ethnology and natural history. The displays range from free-standing tableau showing traditional cultural events like weddings, festivals and beautiful costumes; to the rich variety of weapons, musical instruments, arts and crafts, precious ceramics, and flora & fauna.
Muzium Negara attracts some half million visitors annually. The museum is located at Jalan Damansara and is open from 9.00 am – 6pm daily. It is only closed on the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya AidilAdha. Admission is RM2.00 for adults and children above 12 years old.
The Cultural Gallery
The Cultural Gallery on the first floor has a collection of various aspects of the incredibly diverse Malaysian culture. It juxtaposes some of the many different practices observed in Malaysia and provides an insight into the melting pot of Malaysian society. Displays of traditional costumes, furniture, foot wares, puppetry to important ceremonial customs, such as the Royal Malay Wedding Tableau, Royal Circumcision, Melaka Straits-born Chinese House and the Indian Wedding Ceremony; offer an insight into Malaysia’s ritual traditions and multicultural heritage.
The Faces of Malaysia Gallery
The Faces of Malaysia Gallery offers a kaleidoscopic montage of the common Malaysian life, and one can take a peek into the many ethno-social traits of the Malay, Chinese, Indian and the ethnic communities from Sabah and Sarawak, the Orang Asli, Portuguese, Chettiar and other smaller ethnic communities who contribute to the diversity of the population living harmoniously. The visitor can also catch a glimpse of the major festivals celebrated by the local communities.
The Natural History Gallery
The Natural History Gallery displays the magnificence of Malaysian rain forest and offers specimens of the world’s oldest jungle flora and fauna. Specimens are set up in showcases and dioramas depicting birds and mammals in their habitats. An excellent collection of entomological specimens including butterflies and insects are also displayed. Highlights includes displays of a collection of exotic tropical seashells, the Orang Utan, Raja Brooke butterfly (t.brookiana albescens), Atlas bettle and the world’s largest flower, the Raffelsia.
The Weaponry and Traditional Musical Instrument Gallery
The Weaponry and Traditional Musical Instruments Gallery has a fine collection of keris from all over the Malay world; with spears, daggers and other related armory. These weaponries demonstrate a technical superiority of the lethal kind and also as a tactile object of beauty. These objects are a true artistic testament of a highly developed and sophisticated culture and society.
The traditional musical instruments consists of a collection spanning a few centuries. Traditional Malay musical instruments are mainly of the percussion variety. They include the drums, gongs and stringed instruments. Chinese, Indian, Orang Asli and other ethnic musical instruments are juxtaposed in this gallery. The collection is a showcase of Malaysia’s symbol of art and creativity over the centuries and demonstrate the harmony of all the races and ethnicity.
The Ceramics Gallery
The Ceramics Gallery showcases representative pieces of Chinese, Southeast Asian and Japanese origins. Islamic ceramics with fine calligraphic inscriptions and ornate designs are the highlights. Also displayed is an exquisite collection of Straits Chinese porcelain of the Qing Dynasty. It is the colourful over glazed polychrome enameled porcelain which makes it different from contemporary Chinese porcelain whose colour and design is more subdued. The ceramics depict not only the lives of the local communities but foreign cultures that have influenced our lifestyle.
The Central Hall
Adorning the floor of the Central Hall are beautiful blue geometric-design mosaic tiles from Pakistan, with intricate carved panels on the ceiling of the hall. The Central Hall houses temporary exhibitions. The matic and special exhibitions are held at this hall at intervals to promote an awareness of the country’s incredibly diverse culture and heritage. Exhibitions of international flavours are held occasionally. Some of the more fascinating exhibitions been held at this hall included ‘The Islamic Civilization’, ‘Our King’, ‘The World of Flowers’, ‘Durian King of Fruits’, ‘Masks from Sarawak’, ‘World Currency’, ‘Islamic Frontiers of China’, ‘American Frontiers’, and ‘Religious Architecture from the Netherlands.
The Istana Satu
Another attraction of the Museum is an original-size old Terengganu timber palace known as Istana Satu. Rich Malay craftsmanship is evident throughout the palace, from the intricate wood carvings that adorn doors and windows. The restored palace is a charming wooden house designed for the tropics. Standing on stilts that allow air to circulate freely under the building, the palace’s steep thatch roof contributes further to keeping the interior of the house nice and cool. This timber palace is more than one hundred years old.
Standing majestically next to the Istana Satu are two keliriengs or burial poles. A kelirieng is made of a huge hardwood tree trunk, carved from the top to bottom. Nitched up to its sides is a space for the bodies of slaves and followers and hollowed at the top to place the jar containing the chief’s bones.
The Outdoor Display
In close proximity to the museum building, there are a number of outdoor displays of transportation in Malaysia, past and present. An interesting exhibit is the Melaka Bullock Cart which closely resembles the early American horse-drawn wagon. Of unparallel interest are the Steam Locomotive made by Kitson & Co, England, which was put into service in 1921 until it ceased operation in 1969. It covered 1.5 million rail miles; a Tin Dredge which resembles a floating factory, on a natural or artifical lake. A major achievement of Malaysia is the manufacture of our first national car – the Proton Saga 1.3 litre, on 18 April 1985.