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Written by Weirich Alexander |

Gaze into the vacant eye sockets of a century-old human skull and you might begin to wonder. Wonder about the colour of the person’s eyes or more deeply, how they viewed the world in the late 1800s. Such existential moments can shake the commotion and fuss out of your life and reaffirm the simple joy of being alive. 

This was my experience when visiting the historic Sarawak Museum in 2017. It was my first time in Kuching and the half-day spent engaging with the various bones, artefacts and ethnographic displays sent my brain into wonderment overload. I decided to repeat this extremely gratifying experience when planning a business trip to the City of Cats in October 2022.

The Grab driver lived in Kuching his entire life and provided me with an unsolicited verbal tour of the city. This service he provided free of charge to his captive audience. When we reached the hotel I thanked him thought the open car window and cheerfully mentioned I would continue my education of his beloved city at the museum. His expression immediately changed. “The Sarawak Museum?” he quizzed. I nodded. A blank expression crossed his face as the car began to inch forward, “It’s closed, replaced by a new museum. Such a shame,” he muttered while driving away. I stood stunned watching his tail lights merge into a mosaic of city traffic contemplating what he meant by ‘shame’ and feeling somewhat empty. My interest shifted and I spent my free time experiencing other cultural highlights in Kuching.

In July 2023 I visited Kuching again. I did not intend to visit the Borneo Cultures Museum but curiosity got the better of me so I decided to spend a portion of the afternoon in the architecturally impressive building. Starting from the Children’s Gallery and moving through the exhibition levels consecutively, I couldn’t understand how or why iit could be considered a share and I felt foolish for not visiting earlier. It was certainly different from the Sarawak Museum but the infusion of technology with history is remarkable. This is the new home to the voices of the past. The digital interactivity empowers the physical collection, amplifying the awareness, importance and appreciation of Borneo Cultures.

I understand there are future plans for the Sarawak Museum within the Sarawak Museum Complex. It is evident the Sarawak Museum Department acknowledges the importance of museum as sites of education and surprise as it continues to inspire visitors with unique perspectives of its collection. I personally look forward to more visits to Kuching and eagerly await my next ‘wonder-ful’ museum experience. 

IG: @borneoculturesmuseum


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