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Lamenting sudden closure of
Textile Museum KL

Relocation plan not feasable

By Zalina Mohd Som
Pictures by Jannaton Ferdaus Shaari

Ethnic culture - designs from Borneo

UNKNOWN to many, especially Malaysians, the Textile Museum Kuala Lumpur opened its doors to "An Insight of a Civilisation" in textile arts back in 1997.

Visitors, made up mostly of foreigners, were impressed with the museum, one of the few of its kind in the world. It was admired for its wealth of information and impressive presentation.

Occupying a pre-war building, the museum was located strategically near Dayabumi, the National History Museum and Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad in Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin.

For Malaysians who visited it, the museum was the place for an insight into early civilisation and to admire its rich culture.

Exotic - kain pua from Sarawak in the Weaving Gallery The museum was a good source of information for students, especially those pursuing art and fashion courses and it was the place for research.

The museum housed four main galleries - the Batik Gallery which featured a Batik Shoppe, the Embroidery Gallery, Weaving Gallery and Gilding Gallery.

These galleries featured textiles from all over the country, including pua from Sarawak and dasta from Sabah to the intricately beautiful kain cindai and kain kalingkam, some as old as a hundred years.

Besides the galleries, the museum also housed dioramas illustrating various production techniques like weaving, dyeing and gilding; a boutique, mini theatre and the museum shoppe. It also hosted occasional exhibitions and talks as well as do-it-yourself workshops.

Skill - another diorama on the gilding technique Two successful years passed. Then, again unknown to many, while the whole nation was joyously counting the minutes to the new millennium, the museum quietly shut its door to visitors on Dec 30.

The decision was so abrupt that the museum had not even completed its three-month long showcase on "Borneo's Ethnic Textile" exhibition, scheduled to end only on Jan 31.

It is speculated that the museum will be relocated to the Craft Museum in the Craft Cultural Complex in Jalan Conlay. It also said the whole museum of four galleries will be transferred to the basement of the complex which is only the size of a gallery.

Museum coordinator Mohd Latif Dirun said the sudden closure was due to cost-saving steps taken by the museum manager, the Handicraft Development Corporation.

He believes the museum should he maintained at its current location. He said the museum would lose its concept as a specialty textile museum if moved to the Craft Cultural Complex.

Treasures - exhibits in the showcase of Borneo's Ethnic Textile "The cramped space will only allow a small portion of the whole exhibit thus turning it into a showroom while omitting the dioramas and bigger exhibits," he said. Mohd Latif said moving the exhibits to another location could put the delicate items at risk. Larger items like wall panels with batik motifs and the dioramas could also be damaged.

He hopes the management would reopen the museum at its present location. Mohd Latif is not alone as there are others who believe the museum should be preserved where it was. A frequent visitor, R.F. Rahim, in her letter to the New Straits Times published on Jan 14, had appealed to the museum's management to reconsider its decision and preserve the museum.

"Will other museums be shut down for the same reasons? Can the corporation justify its decision to put a price tag on knowledge and heritage?" she asked. Well, doesn't anyone care, anymore?

Reprinted from the New Straits Times, Thursday January 20, 2000

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