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Map of Malaysia


The first museum in what was then Malaya was established in 1883 in Taiping, Perak. Leonard Wray was the first curator. Encouraged by the success of this venture, it was proposed to erect a major building, in Kuala Lumpur to house a more comprehensive collection of artefacts. Wray was allowed an allocation to collect artefacts for this museum.

The Selangor museum was launched in 1888, also with Wray as Curator. By 1907 the building was completed. In 1940 the Perak Museum and the Selangor Museum were amalgamated to form the Federated Malay States Museum, under the Federated Malay States Museums Department.

Zoological works, carried out in the Selangor Museum, was devoted to Malayan insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, etc. There was a small museum library and three galleries exhibiting local prehistoric and ethnographic objects.

In line with the British government's programme of decentralisation in the 1930s, the two museums were divided and again became state institutions. A considerable financial allocation was made and the museums initiated research programmes and explorations \. Results were published in the Federated Malay States Museums Journal, which ran into 19 volumes from 1905 until publication was stopped by the war in 1939.

On March 10, 1945 a misdirected stick of bombs dropped by an American B29 bomber almost virtually destroyed the Selangor Museum. The roof caved in, exposing the collection to sun and rain. Salvage operations were organised by the clerk caretaker assisted by the Japanese officer in charge. Salvaged artefacts were stored in a school until transferred to the Perak Museum in Taiping in January 1946. In May of 1949 the Director of Museums also moved his headquarters from Kuala Lumpur to the Perak Museum.

From early 1947 there were proposals to rebuild the museum but no funds were forthcoming. A small single storey was erected in 1952 on the direction of Sir Gerald Templer.

In 1959 the Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj commissioned an architect to prepare plans for a National Museum. Malayan designs and motifs were to be incorporated into the design. The building was opened in 1963.

The Museums Department has since 1963, and especially in the last decade, striven to make the museum an active participant in education and the dissemination of information. Academic, archaeological, historical and educational research programmes have been initiated. Information and artefacts have been made available to the public. Thematic exhibitions are organised to promote an awareness of the country's rich cultural and historical heritage.

The Museums Department acts in an advisory role to various state and departmental museums so as to maintain uniform development. Likewise affiliations with museums in other parts of the world are maintained. The Museum Association of Malaysia (MAM) was formed as a forum for professionals, and enables comprehensive and organised development of the country's museums.

Updated: 22 February, 2001