3-13 The Multitude of Museums in Malacca

Red Roofs of Singapore

We left Singapore on a bus on January 8th. We had to jump out at the border and go through border control then get back in, which was amusing. There were only 3 of us on the bus, so it took about 45 seconds despite our extremely impatient driver’s laments of it being very slow.

Malacca has an amazing amount of museums. There is a district that seems to be primarily devoted to stuffing medium sized buildings full of relics, models and large blocks of text. Some of the museums are grouped into sets, where you can pay a single admission for all of them. This is how we ended up in the Literature Museum, the Democracy Museum and the Military Museum all within 3 hours. There were two more in the set, but they were closed for renovations.

Museum of Literature!  Books and authors and things!

I really like that Malacca has a museum devoted to literature. Generally speaking, people assume that libraries are enough, but as the Museum showed, there is a lot more. They highlighted people who have made important contribution to Malaysian literature through writing or through maintaining traditional storytelling techniques. They gave short histories on different styles of Malaysian literature and what they were based on. And they showcased books. Honestly, I was a little lost. I don’t know Malaysian history or literature enough to know how all the pieces fit into the greater whole. I can learn all about the specifics of the first woman to be published, but only makes a little bit of sense because I don’t know the history and context of women’s rights in Malaysia. Still, it was cool to see a museum devoted to books.

The military museum was less interesting. Jason and I can’t agree as to weather it was military or military leaders. It had models of rooms in a mansion, lots of clothes and photos of important people and a table set for a formal meal. Again, I’m sure it would have been more interesting if I’d had context for any of it.

The old fort, partially restored with
red tile instead of red stone.

The third museum was the most modern. The Democracy Museum had a mission statement that was something along the lines of, “Teach young people about the history and importance of democracy in Malaysia.” They seemed to be doing a good job, since we watched about 2 dozen people between the ages of 18-30 wander in and out while we were there. The museum itself ran a nice line between giving some of the context for the foreign visitors and not re-telling Malaysian history to the Malaysian visitors.

The Deomcracy Museum had a display of royal formal clothes over the course of a hundred years or so. At the beginning, the clothes are what I would expect; men’s wrapped skirts and jackets held at the waist with a wide fabric belt. The belt was decorative, practical and held a kris, or Hindu sword. (My favorite kind of clothing are the kinds that contain swords.) As the years progressed, the style of clothing started to change. By the end of the display, the jacket was cut like a British miliary jacket, the skirt had been traded for pants and the kris had been traded out for a saber (good) or removed entirely (lame). This made me think about culture appropriation and how culture morph and change. There is a forthcoming post exclusively on this topic.

Crow’s Nest on the Maritime Museum

We left the 5 museum zone and went to look for food. Instead, we found the Maritime Museum. It was a giant ship. Awesome. We got to climb around the different parts, including going into the sleeping quarters, captains cabin and the holds below decks. Each area had a small exhibit and a note about what part of the ship it was. While we were there, there were several students drawing, measuring and using auto-CAD to create diagrams of the building. I wanted to ask what they were studying, but the language barrier made it too intimidating to even try. Instead, I took pictures of them. (I did managed to ask permission for that.)

I do love museums. They are vastly informative places. Going to 4 museums in one day was a bit overwhelming. I’m not sure how much information I actually managed to retain. Enough to know I need to learn more history, that’s for sure.

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