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Sibu museum's rich tapestry
of historic records

Story and pictures by
Martin Yee


KUCHING, Sun. - Sibu, the second largest town in Sarawak, is often described as a place without any tourist attraction or places of interest. But it is not true. There are plenty of things to see and places to visit, if one knows where to look. One such place of interest, and considered one of the least known outside of this timber town, is the Sibu Civic Centre Museum. It boasts some interesting artifacts and invaluable photographs relating to the town's history.

Reminder of the past -- Human skulls on exhibit at the museum.  They are grisly reminders of the head-hunting past of Sarawak.Tucked away on the ground floor of the Sibu Dewan Suarah, this mini-museum, run by a sub-committee of the Dewan Suarah, was set up in 1988. The Sarawak Museum assisted in its establishment and even offered exhibits such as stuffed dolphins and crocodiles. It has a rich collection of ceramics and cultural exhibits depicting the various races such as the Orang Ulus, the lbans, the Melanaus, Malays and the Chinese. There's also a replica of an Iban longhouse that offers visitors a "feel" of a real longhouse complete with human skulls that were collector's items during the head-hunting days of Sarawak's past.

The museum has a rich collection of white ceramics that range from the 10th to the 12th Century. Most were contributed by well known figures and tycoons from the town such as Tan Sri Ling Beng Siew, Datuk Lau Hui Kang, Datuk Ding Jack Sung and Datuk Ilong Hiew King.

Among the interesting exhibits are a three metre long spear with a gigantic blade used by the legendary Sherif Masyahor, one of the famous rebels who fought against the British colonial masters.

There are also photographs tracing the town's historical past when it was just a fishing village. There are also photographs depicting the timber industry which was the main industry contributing to Sibu's rapid growth in the early 1970s.

Situated on the outskirts of the town near a residential area, the museum is mostly "deserted" during the day-time. However the museum's administration officer, John Wong, said the place has more visitors during Sundays, mostly student groups and the public who visit the place in organised tours.

Originally it was quite a simple place but it was upgraded in 1994. "The museum is a must-see for tourists to find out about the to and Sibu people are proud of. Before it was set up, there was no such museum that traced the development of the town. "It is also a popular place especially for school children who visit the museum on their educational tours.

A number of items like the ceramics collection, which some believe can fetch up to RM100 million, were mostly contributed by local community leaders and prominent businessmen of Sibu town.

"One of the contributors was former businessman and renowned photographer Lim Poh Chiang who is now retired. He was worried that when he grows old, his collection might get lost. That is why he contributed his rich collection of white ceramics to the museum for posterity," Wong said.

Reprinted from the New Straits Times,
Monday, May 22, 2000

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