National Museum is located near the southern tip of the Lake Gardens, past the National Art Gallery. An excellent introduction to Malaysia’s history, economy, geography, arts, crafts and culture, it overlooks Jalan Damansara and was built in 1963 with its displays spread out onto three floors.
The building has a sweeping, traditional Minangkabau-style roof and a main entrance flanked by two large murals of Italian glass mosaic that portray the country’s major historical events and cultural activities. A couple of years ago the National Museum underwent an extensive renovation that had an all-new gallery added to its complex.
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History of National Museum
Much of the National Museum’s original collection of artworks was razed during a World War II bombing but the museum still has an extensive ethnographic and archaeological exhibit on display. Its impressive collection starts out on the ground floor with life-sized dioramas of ritual weddings, traditional Malaysian life (fishing, farming, weaving etc.) taking place in kampung settings and even one of a Malay circumcision ceremony.
There is even a life-size, traditional Malacca Baba house with beautiful mahogany furniture, elaborate carpets and brass, silver and gold ornaments on the first floor. Additionally, the museum adds a hint of the prosaic to the mix with a section dedicated to the Malay art of wayang kulit – a kind of shadow wooden puppet theatre.
Make Love, Not War
The second floor of the National Museum sees a huge zoological section with stuffed animals – it vaguely resembles a hunting lodge. Up here is also a fairly impressive collection of weapons, including parangs (machetes), kris (daggers), swords and miniature canons. Walking down one the winding passages will lead you to a section dedicated to traditional musical instruments including the serunai (a reed with a multicoloured end), rebab (a fiddle played like a cello), rebana (drums), Kelantanese drums and Chinese gongs, lutes and flutes.
The National Museum has several guided tours that take place throughout the week. It is one of the better ways to explore the museum as they are very informative and free. The English tours take place at 11:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and there is a French-language tour on Thursdays at 09:00 and 12:00. Conveniently, there is a covered walkway from the National Museum that takes visitors over the highway to the southern stretch of the Lake Gardens.
National Museum Kuala Lumpur
- Opening Hours: Daily, 09:00 - 18:00, closed on Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji
- Address: Jalan Damansara 50566, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Tel: +603-2267-1048
- How to get there: Near Sentral Station, however, you have to figure out the best way to walk across the highway to get there from that stop.