BY DANIAL FAUZI
Preserving cultural artefacts and heritage sites is a noble cause to stand with. The goal of preserving historical artefacts and places that hold significant cultural value helps the future generation learn their roots and appreciate the things they have now in this modern era.
Historical palaces in Malaysia are often converted into museums to house these artefacts to be displayed for both local citizens and international tourists.
The Kuala Kangsar Royal Museum is one such palace that is now a museum in the State of Perak.
Historically, the Kuala Kangsar Royal Museum, also known as Istana Kenangan, Istana Lembah and Istana Tepas, was built in 1926 by a Malay carpenter named Haji Suffian. He was assisted by his two sons, Zainal Abidin and Ismail.
The palace was constructed by the orders of the late Sultan Iskandar Shah (Marhum Kadasallah), the 30th Sultan of Perak. The palace was to act as an interim residence until the completion of the Istana Iskandariah.
The Sultan resided in the Istana Kenangan from 1931 to 1933. When the Sultan moved to the Istana Iskandariah, the Istana Kenangan was used as a Guest Palace.
The Istana Kenangan was then converted into the Kuala Kangsar Royal Museum by the Perak government with a mutual agreement with the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Muhibuddin Shah, on Nov 16, 1986. On Mar 9, 2009, the museum was gazetted as a historical heritage site.
UNIQUE CULTURAL ATTRACTION
The Royal Museum’s main attraction is the exhibition of artefacts or objects relating to the Perak Sultanate and also the site of the palace. It attracts visitors and tourists from various nationalities and even from schools.
“The main attraction for the Kuala Kangsar Royal Museum lies in the museum building, which is a real artefact and unique in traditional Malay palace architecture,” said Mohamad Amir Mohd Dahalan, Director of the Perak State Museum Board.
“The construction of this building uses selected hardwood, bamboo woven walls, and belian roofs. Pegs and mortise techniques were used in the construction of the building instead of iron nails.”
Indeed, from a symbolic perspective, the palace’s design resembles a sheathed sword seen from above.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that one of the symbols or identities of Kuala Kangsar’s rich cultural heritage and history is highlighted or depicted through the Royal Museum,” expressed Amir.
“Therefore, the Perak State Museum Board takes an approach to ensure that Royal Museum can maintain the authenticity of the original architectural design, which includes the surrounding area.”
Amir added that although the palace was converted into a museum, its layout and authenticity were maintained. This included the guest rooms, the throne room, the features and designs of the palace, the fence, and even the surrounding gardens.
Additionally, to ensure the preservation of the building, the Kuala Kangsar Royal Museum received recognition from the National Heritage Department and is declared a National Heritage Site.
“Every repair or maintenance of the building will go through the necessary processes, including advice or recommendations from a registered conservator to meet the standards and guidelines set by the National Heritage Department,” Amir added.
NURTURING FUTURE GENERATIONS
Despite preserving cultural artefacts and heritage sites against the test of time, it is simply not enough if the future generation does not acknowledge their existence in this modern age.
“The interest and love for history and culture should be nurtured from childhood starting from their parents and further developed through formal education by teachers and tutors through the various approaches and syllabuses involved,” expressed Amir.
Therefore, the Kuala Kangsar Royal Museum has emphasised the concept of “Museum and Education”. This approach involves the museum trying to convey and relay information about cultural artefacts and the museum’s history through guided tours and periodic exhibitions.
The museum also has a programme dubbed IPIM (Student Inspiration, Museum Innovation).
“This programme allows school teachers to take students to the museum for a class teaching session. Museum staff will help teachers with guided tours based on the topics taught by the teacher.
“The teachers are allowed to use the museum artefacts as teaching aids to increase the understanding and experience among the students. Students will also follow hands-on activities based on the equipment available at the museum to complete the class session at the museum,” added Amir.