The first Kuala Lumpur museum you should definitely check out is the National Museum (Muzium Negara). Here you can find various displays of Malay artifacts and heritages. The museum is located just outside the Lake Gardens (Taman Tasik Perdana) along Jalan Damansara and boasts an attractive palatial-styled structure using old Malay architecture.
The museum was designed using a compilation of aesthetic elements and traditional Malay carving motifs. This type of motif is typical of traditional Malay’s architecture. The Father of Independence and first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj personally chose this exquisite design.
The architecture of the National Museum Kuala Lumpur comprises of 26 concrete pillars which are positioned to reflect the features of a traditional Malay palace. The 26-pillar concept is based on the assembly of thirteen pillars to the east and 13 more to the west of the building, which represents the 13 states of Malaysia.
The Museum’s Large Mural
The site of the National Museum – on a hill facing Jalan Travers – was originally the site of the old Selangor Museum which was opened in 1906 and later accidentally destroyed by the Allied Air Forces during the World War 2 (10 March 1945). In 1952, a small new building was erected at the same site to display national treasures and was officially opened by the British Resident then, Sir Gerald Templer.
Upon independence, the small building was demolished in 1959 to make way for the present museum which was officially launched by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong III Tuanku Syed Putra Al-Haj Ibni Almarhum Syed Hassan Jamalullail on 31st August 1963.
It consist of a large central main entrance hall that is flanked by two exhibition wings. The two large murals on the exterior of National Museum exhibition wings depicts scenes of the country – the mural on the right (west side) illustrates the economic activities, traditional ceremonies and customs of Malaysian, while the one on the left (east side) chronicals the significant events of Malay history, including the eminent Malacca Malay Sultanate, colonization and the independence of Malaysia in the year 1957.
Your experience at the National Museum begins outside, at the Transportation Shed, where some old forms of transportation such as old locomotives and vintage cars are on display. You can also find a bull cart from Malacca, with its distinctive upturned roof and also pedal trishaws that are still being used in Penang.
There’s also replica of an ancient Malay palace on the ground. The palace known as Istana Satu (First Palace), is built on stilts. It is a simple and airy wooden structure with beautiful decorative wood carvings.
Impressive Displays & Exhibits
On the inside, you will find many impressive displays and exhibits covering the country’s rich history, culture and traditions. There are also old weapons, currencies, arts and crafts on display.
The various galleries housed within the Muzium Negara provide you some interesting insights into the country’s development – Historical Gallery, Cultural Gallery, Metalworks and Musical Instrument Gallery, National Sports Gallery and the National History Gallery.
At the Historical Gallery, you can trace the different periods in the history of Peninsular Malaysia. The gallery has models of homes from different states, traditional costumes, ceramic pottery, gold and silver items, and other artifacts. You can also see displays that trace the stages of British colonization from the late-18th century to the British withdrawal in the mid-20th century. There are also photos and text telling about the Japanese occupation during World War II and Malaya’s move toward independence.
At the National Museum Cultural Gallery, you can find a collection of various aspects of the Malaysian culture — from common everyday pastimes to important ceremonial customs. There is a model Baba Nyonya (Peranakan or Straits-born Chinese) home furnished with exquisite antiques such as carved canopy beds and a table-and-chair set with mother-of-pearl inlay.
The Metalwork and Musical Instruments Gallery showcases various objects and utensils from kitchenware and ceremonial ornaments to weapons and traditional instruments of Malaysian music. The Natural History Exhibit upstairs is devoted to indigenous wildlife, with stuffed flying lemurs, birds, and poisonous snakes.
The National Museum Kuala Lumpur also organises themed exhibitions from time to time, such as Treasures from the Graves, Enduring Beauty and World of Ghosts exhibits. You can visit the Kuala Lumpur museum from 9am – 6pm. It’s open for visitors daily.
National Museum Kuala Lumpur