While walking around this city is a great way to discover the history of Malaysia, sometimes there’s nothing better than a carefully curated museum. Luckily for the wandering historian, Kuala Lumpur has numerous buildings dedicated to documenting the development of this beautiful country, from its cultural aspects to its advancements in technology and architecture. We at Culture Trip recommend these museums for a fulfilling educational trip about Malaysia’s past, present and future.
National Museum of Malaysia
Designed in accordance to the features of a Malay Minangkabau Gadang palace, the National Museum –erected in 1963 by the third official Agong king of new Malaysia after the independence of Malaya from the colonial forces of Britain – hosts the majority of the country’s history. Detailing records of prehistoric life to current historical events and achievements, this museum prides itself in displaying the timeline of how this part of the continent, that came to be known as Malaya, developed into Malaysia. Spend a few hours exploring among the many artifacts, flora and fauna, cultural artworks, currency and structures Malaysia was built on and which continue to preserve its identity.
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Appreciate the intricate beauty of the religion of Islam and understand the stories behind its recurring artistic motifs with a visit to this shrine-like museum dedicated to Malaysia’s national religion. The biggest museum housing Islamic arts and artifacts in Southeast Asia, contributions from all over the world are on display. Trace the history of the religion all over the world, from the cradle of Islam – Middle East and Iran, to China, India and of course Southeast Asia. The Islamic Arts Museum also hosts some workshops and activities, should you wish to get more acquainted with how Islam is practiced in different parts of the world.
Muzium Kesenian Islam Malaysia, Perdana Botanical Gardens, KL, Malaysia. T: +60 3-2092 7070
Orang Asli Crafts Museum
This little museum deserves more attention and love as it hosts the history and art of the original settlers of Peninsular Malaysia, the indigenous and aborigine tribes. Showcasing an extremely valuable collection of traditional handicrafts which include an array of carvings, weapons and tools, fabrics and more detailing the myths, legends and beliefs of the Orang Asli. The museum’s entire square footage may be minimal, but it is packed with ancient, one-of-a-kind artworks. The Orang Asli Crafts Museum is just next door to the National Museum, so have a two-in-one visit when you’re in the area.
Learning about the history of scientific and technological advancements is just as interesting as knowing the cultural history; and Petrosains helps encompass Malaysia’s achievements in that area in such a fun way it is not to be missed. Although curated mostly for kids to lean about the main scientific focus of Malaysia – petroleum science, the oil and gas industry and a good introduction to the general sciences; its interactive and simplified presentation is sure to delight visitors of all ages.
Another aspect of history that should not be left out in chronicling the development of a nation is the science of astronomy. Malaysia is no exception, and with the National Planetarium, discover how the science of star-gazing has brought the country to even further heights. Learn how not just Malayan, but Chinese and Indian methods of documenting astronomy and charting star systems have influenced Southeast Asian cultures and science since ancient times through carefully reconstructed replicas and curated videos and dioramas. Also pay a visit to the observation telescope and try to find some familiar constellations!
Planetarium Negara, Jalan Perdana, Tasik Perdana, KL, Malaysia. T: +60 3-2273 4303
National Visual Arts Gallery
Featuring artworks from various periods, cultures and styles, the National Visual Arts Gallery delightfully showcases mostly local and some foreign talents as a method to preserve and introduce artistic quality that Malaysia reveres. Ranging from traditional skilled crafts like batik to modern paintings and sculptures, the pyramid-like building with Guggenheim-inspired interior is sure to provide a tranquil and inspiring visit as you browse through the many delights Kuala Lumpur has to offer.
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
Housed in one of the oldest and finest of the colonial-era buildings on Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur City Gallery is a rabbit hole of Kuala Lumpur itself. This curated-for-tourists ‘museum’ caters to deliver the history of the city of Kuala Lumpur from its old mining town days to its current capital hub status for the whole of Malaysia through beautifully handcrafted dioramas and precision models by locals. Also pick up some made-in-Malaysia produce for pretty souvenirs in their patriotically dedicated shop!
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, 27 Jalan Raja, Dataran Merdeka, KL, Malaysia. T: +60 3-2698 3333