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Colonial-era home to be museum

Agnes Keith's residence in Sandakan. NST picture by Mark KongSANDAKAN, Wed. - A colonial style house, built on a hilltop at Jalan Istana here more than 150 years ago, will be turned into a museum. The two-storey house was the residence of author Agnes Keith and her husband, Harry, who was Conservator of Forest and Curator of North Borneo Museum during the time of the British.

The house was destroyed in the Second World War but was rebuilt by the couple in 1948.

Keith wrote three internationally-acclaimed books on Sabah while living in the rebuilt house. Her first book was about life in North Borneo in the 1930s and was called Land Below The Wind. The title was supposedly inspired by the constant breeze around her home. The Sabah Tourism Promotion Corporation is using the title as a tag line in its promotional efforts with the hope of capitalising on the market drawn by the book. Keith's second book, Three Came Home, was made into a film. White Man Returns was her third book.

Renovation and restoration work on the deteriorating building which has a floor area of 8,500 sq ft is estimated to cost about RM1 million. The task begins next month, said Tourism Development, Environment, Science and Technology Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat, who visited the house yesterday. Chong was briefed by Sabah Museum director Joseph Gontavid, who said four other buildings near the Keith's' home would be converted into an education-cum-interpretation centre, cafeteria, office and conservation laboratory under the second phase of the project.

The Sabah Museum plan to preserve the house is to turn it into a branch of the Sabah Museum. "It is the museum's long-term plan to establish branch museums in major towns in Sabah," he added.

Chong, whose Ministry is in the process of promoting and identifying various attractions found here, would like tourists to stay longer. "Sandakan, as the former State capital, has a lot to offer, historically and culturally," he said.


Reprinted from the New Straits Times,
Thursday March 8, 2001


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