Standing proudly on a hill, not far from Merdeka Palace Hotel, the Sarawak Museum is the oldest museum ever been built in Borneo, built in 1891 and extended to its present form in 1911.
It a famous naturalist from Britain, Alfred Russel Wallace, who advised and encouraged the opening of the museum to the second Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Vyner Brooke. At the time he came up with the idea, Wallace was in Sarawak to collect specimens. Initially, the building was especially built as a permanent house to display local native arts and crafts, as well as collections of local animals.
Sarawak Museum was built in a plain yet elegant style which recalls a Victorian era English touch: its architecture was in fact inspired by Queen Anne, who reigned between 1702 and 1714. Since its inception, the building has undergone several renovations and alterations, with designs that can be connected to Europe, Australia and America.
Sarawak Museum consist of two storey. The east wing on the ground floor showcases a collection of natural specimen of Sarawak fauna such as reptiles, mammals, birds and more. The west wing hosts an exhibition on the petroleum industries movement in Sarawak. The first floor has ethnographic artifacts of the Sarawak people, with emphasis on the indigenous tribes like Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau, Orang Ulu, Malay and such. Several types of indigenous creations are on display, to be noted a longhouse, some musical instruments, handicrafts and boats. The gallery interiors are lighted by dormer windows on the museum ceilings, which allow a great area of wall space.
While it was mostly managed by the British colonialists, during Japanese occupation the Sarawak Museum was placed under the direction of a sympathetic Japanese officer, which is why it only suffered minor damage during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia. As per today, Sarawak Museum also hosts the Ethology Museum and it is under the direction of Mr. Ipoi Datan.
Being inside Sarawak Museum for me means a lot, since it gives me a good idea of my state history. Sarawak modernization comes from the past and this past must be retained for the future generations to see. This museum represents the beginning of Sarawak, so visitors today can indirectly learn about this amazing state.