After four years in the works, Borneo Cultures Museum is set to be one of Kuching’s newest landmarks and a cultural institution that will be the pride of Sarawak. Built at a cost of RM308 million, this project was led by Dato Sri Ar John Lau Kah Sieng, Sarawak’s first and renowned architect who has undertaken major projects in Africa, Hong Kong, China, United Arab Emirates and Singapore. With a combined total floor of 31,000sqm approx., it is the second largest museum in Southeast Asia. Looking at this stunning golden structure, one cannot help being mesmerised. This world-class museum aims to be a globally engaged museum of history and heritage centre.
A familiar structure that Borneo Cultures Museum has is its distinct golden arched roof, which complements the architecture of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) building across the Sarawak River. There are also historical and cultural influences incorporated in the architecture of the museum. The silhouetted panels stacked onto one another is inspired by Sarawak’s traditional motifs of woven rattan mats and songket. Meanwhile, the panel wall claddings are designed in an abstract reinterpretation of Sarawak’s weavings that simultaneously refer to the museum’s role as the guardian of the State’s cultural heritage. At the centre of the elevation, glass panels forming the façade allow natural daylight to illuminate the indoor gallery spaces and brighten up public circulation areas.
Conscious efforts were made to maintain the surrounding greenery and minimise the carbon footprint produced following the abolishment of the Dewan Tun Abdul Razak building in exchange for the establishment of the Borneo Cultures Museum. Only green building materials are used, like wood products that are certified according to the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) for the interior wall panels and flooring, making it Green Building Index (GBI) certified. This world-class institution has done its part in terms of sustainable and environmental concerns on Mother Nature.
Borneo Cultures Museum will consist of two main components, which are the main building (Borneo Cultures Museum) and the Annex building for conservation efforts and museum offices. Both parts will be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for exhibition and conservation efforts. This is to ensure that the vast collections are safely secured, preserved, documented and exhibited according to the latest International Council of Museums standards.
In the era of technology, museums too have evolved, whereby digital elements are installed for a better engagement and understanding of the past. Recently, Sarawak has dedicated an additional RM15 million to equip the museum with digital facilities and technologies for an enhanced visitor experience. Visitors will get to engage with intangible cultural heritage through digital facilities. Other facilities include ramps, conservation laboratory, tactile maps and toilets for the disabled, making it a practical and suitable place for everyone.
As the museum’s role develops, its function diversifies too. Long gone are the days where museums were just 100% display of artefacts. Thirty per cent of the museum will feature interactive contents whereas the remaining 70% will feature traditional exhibitions. Expect engaging displays of unique cultural history reflecting the story of both Sarawak and Borneo Heritage.
Altogether, there are five levels of gallery and exhibition spaces, each consisting its own story line that features installations based on a thematic approach. Level 1 houses commercial lots, a café, function rooms and auditorium spaces that will support and complement temporary exhibitions taking place from time to time. Level 2 houses the Children’s Wing, and an Arts and Crafts gallery. Levels 3 and 5 will consist of exhibition gallery spaces, whereby both wings are flanked with individual central atriums. Three galleries to look out for when the museum opens will be based on the themes ‘In Harmony with Nature’, ‘Objects of Desire’ and ‘Time Changes’. With a total of 6,726sqm in exhibition space, it would take days to see everything in the Borneo Cultures Museum, as the levels are best explored separately according to one’s interest and preference.
Borneo Cultures Museum will also have activities that encourage hands-on participation and interactive educational programmes suitable for students to experience learning beyond the classroom. It is also a learning institution, whereby scholars from all around the world can collaborate with local curators in documenting the material knowledge of Borneo’s rich past, in terms of culture, people and nature. Truly, the moment visitors walk out of Borneo Cultures Museum, they will not only have a good time but also gain a profound sense of appreciation for various tribes and cultures in Borneo.
Undeniably, Borneo Cultures Museum exudes the State’s identity and pride, as it is a world-class repository of irreplaceable collections, as well as a centre for both Sarawak and Borneo heritage. This state-of-the-art museum is the place to be for history buffs, cultural practitioners, artists and visitors seeking to learn more about the people, culture and heritage of Sarawak and Borneo. Enter into Borneo Cultures Museum full of curiosity, and step out well-informed and enlightened about the peoples and cultures in Sarawak and Borneo before you further your adventure.