Five Artefacts to Find in Muzium Negara

26 May 2016

Some Malaysians have hazy memories of a school trip to Muzium Negara, while others may have never stepped foot inside. If you are in the latter camp, maybe this article is the push you need to give it a visit.

Many of us pass by Muzium Negara without knowing what’s inside. Despite its location near the city centre and its recent renovation, the museum is a mystery to most young, urban KL-ites. We might spend our weekends at a gig, or even at an art exhibition – but the museum? That’s a stretch.

The building itself, first completed in 1963, has a story behind it. Muzium Negara is built on the ruins of Selangor Museum, a museum that was established by the British but was accidentally destroyed by the Allied Force’s bombs during World War II.

The architect of Muzium Negara was Ho Kok Hoe, an artist and architect from Singapore, whose design of the museum was influenced by the architecture of Malay palaces. The mural outside is by Cheong Laitong, who won the job after being selected from a competition between seven leading artists of the day.

Inside the museum, exhibits are arranged into four sections, covering Pre-History, the Malay Kingdoms, the Colonial Era and Malaysia Today. Looking at every section is quite overwhelming, since this represents over 500,000 years of history. Given the very reasonable ticket price (RM2 for Malaysian adults), we would recommend shorter but repeated visits.

Here are five artefacts that we found most interesting:

Elephant Bell

It may look like some kind of musical bell – but this artefact apparently had a more practical purpose. It was a bell used for elephants, like you might put a bell on your cat’s collar. Dating to the Bronze Age, it was found in Kampung Pancu, in Muar.

Homo Erectus Replica Skull

In the pre-history section, highlights include a replica of the Perak Man, thought to be the oldest complete skeleton discovered in Southeast Asia. But going back even further in time, there’s a replica of a 500,000 year-old homo erectus skull. The shape of the head is distinctively different, yet it’s a clear link to human evolution.

Tobacco Box

At first glance, it’s hard to tell what this intricate little case is for. Decades before cigarettes, people used these cases to carry tobacco. Dating from the 19th century, such boxes had two sections – one for storing tobacco, the other for lime paste. This particular tobacco case belonged to a Sultan.

Election Ballot Paper Samples and Stamps

In the Malaysia Today gallery, there’s a section on the history of elections. You can see ballot paper samples, and also stamps bearing the approved symbols of different parties. The symbols from the 1960s range from a pair of scissors to a flower, while the symbols on the sample ballot paper from the 1980s include a deckchair.  

Sarawak Dollars

In the Colonial Era gallery of the museum, you can see currency issued under the Japanese occupation, as well as Sarawak Dollars dating to the late 19th century. This 50 dollar Sarawak bill carries the image of Charles Vyner Brooke, the third and last “White Rajah” of Sarawak. 

Muzium Negara is located at:
Address: Jalan Damansara, 50566 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2267 1111
Hours: 9am – 6pm, daily

By Ling Low

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