Southeast Asia’s new cultural highpoint

Malaysia’s biggest, most spectacular new museum set to open in Kuching in 2020

It’s set to become the “shining star” of Malaysia’s, and indeed the entire region’s cultural scene. Sarawak’s new state museum in Kuching – Malaysia’s biggest, the second biggest in Southeast Asia – will open to the public later this year.

The new museum and annexe are part of the Sarawak Museum campus, which also includes the old Sarawak Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Art Museum.

The new 30,000 sq m building will ensure that the Sarawak heritage, in the form of a wide array of collections, is safely and securely stored, preserved, documented, researched and well exhibited, according to the latest standards by the International Council of Museums.

The new five-storey building will have exhibition spaces on Levels 2 through 5, on two wings anking a central atrium. Level 1 will house commercial lots, a café, function rooms and auditorium spaces, supporting and complementing the exhibition gallery.

The main building is connected to a three- storey annexe, housing the museum’s offices, conservation and research spaces, library and archives, while the entire basement level is a dedicated storage area.

The property has been under construction since 2014, at a cost of around €70 m. It is Malaysia’s first museum to be Green Building Index (GBI) certified. Eco- friendly building materials include timber products certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) for the floors and interior wall panels. Following the demolition of the Dewan Tun Abdul Razak building to make way for the new museum, conscious efforts were also made to retain the large trees on site and to preserve the surrounding context as much as possible.

While the building was completed last August, with an official hand-over ceremony attended by Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, opening time is slated for later this year. When complete, visitors will embark upon an interactive journey through Sarawak’s history, and the lifestyles of the state’s numerous ethnic communities.

The Sarawak Museum had long been hailed as one of the best in this part of the world, with its old wing dating back to 1891. The new building will serve as a centre of learning, hosting international scholars to collaborate with local curators on documenting the material knowledge of Borneo’s rich past, along with its cultures, people and nature. It aims to establish Sarawak as a new global focal point for work in the field of anthropology.