Museums in Brunei Darussalam

Silver Jubilee Museum "Royal Regalia", Bandar Seri Begawan

Silver Jubilee Museum “Royal Regalia”, Bandar Seri Begawan

Darul Aqsha

A LETTER entitled “Why is the National Museum closed?’ published in this newspaper last Monday (BT, 26 May, 2014, page A28) was representing the voice of public who love museums, especially the Brunei National Museum in the area of Kota batu, which is now temporarily closed.

The writer mentioned that a lot of people would be affected by the temporary closing of the museum, especially schools students, university/college sudents, tourists and tourist guides. Moreover, foreign delegations who attending an international event in the capital, discussing topics related to the development of museum in education.

The writer is right. Museum is one of educational and information media to instill a sense of awareness, responsibility and appreciation of Brunei’s national cultural heritage for Bruneian people, and a centre for disseminating information about it.

Do you know that the Brunei Museum has collection of old coinages from the eras of Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates dated back some 12-13 centuries ago? Just take a look their showcases at a gallery located in the left wing of the museum. It’s interesting and amazing to know that the museum has such a collection. Moreover for those whose hobby is in numismatics. Thus, we do not need to go to museums as far as Iraq, Syria, Spain or England just to see it. Providing information about the past valuable things, known as artifacts, is one of the benefits of the museum existence.

Kampong Ayer Gallery

Kampong Ayer Gallery

Museums in Brunei are managed by the Brunei Museums Department under the Ministry of Culture, Youths and Sports. The Museums Department was established in 1965. It has two missions. Firstly, to protect and preserve national and cultural heritage for educational encouragement. And secondly, to stimulate public interest, love and appreciation of the rich cultural and natural heritage.

The existence of museums in Brunei can be traced back to more than sixty years ago. In 1950, His Majesty Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, the 27th Sultan and yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, initiated the establishment of the Brunei National Museum. He asled Tom Harrison, a curator of the Sarawak Museum, to conduct an excavation and research project in Kota Batu.

Fourteen years later, His Majesty the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien supported the project by including it in the First National Development Plan to safeguard valuable artifacts and records pertaining to Brunei’s glorious and ancient past stretching back more than 1,000 years. In this frame of work, the Museums Department is established a year later.

The establishment of the department was enhanced by the enactmemts of two acts in 1967, namely the Preservation of Books Act and the Antiquities and the Treasure Trove Act. The first act requires any local publication to be deposited in triplicate with the Director of Brunei Museums, and the second act controls and preserves antiquities and archaeological sites, controls exports of antiquities by licence and sets out punishments for violators.

Still in the same year, Director of the Museums, PM Sarifuddin, initiated Tasek Merimbun and its environment as a natural reservation. Later on November 29, 1984 Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park, the largest blackwater lake in Brunei (7,800 hectares), was declared an ASEAN National Heritage site.

Old manuscripts of Al-Quran at Brunei Museum.

Old manuscripts of Al-Quran at Brunei Museum.

Following these act enactments, the construction of the National Museum at a historical site in Kota Batu began in 1968. It completed three years later. On February 29, 1972 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the National Museum,

After that, in 1975 the government also issued the other acts such as the Brunei National Archives Act which allows for the safekeeping and preservation of public archives and records and the Wildlife Protection Act in 1978 which listed the protected animal species. In Aug 1990, the Museum Department becomes the custodian of local endangered species after Brunei signed the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites).

The Museums Department also established several museum buildings and cultural/historical centres. They were Brunei Arts and Handicraft Training Centre was established in 1975, The Brunei Historical Centre (1982), the Brunei Malay Technological Museum (1988), the Royal Regalia Building (1992), and the Kampung Ayer Gallery (2010), while the $5 million Maritime Museum in Kota Batu is being in finishing touch and will be opened for public in the end of this year (2014).


Brunei_museumBrunei Museum
Situated on top of a hill at Jalan Kota Batu overlooking the Brunei river, it displays several items including the Holy Qur’ans of the ancient calligraphers, history of oil invention and process, ethnography, fauna, handicrafts, culture, ancient coinages, ancient Chinese ceramics from sunken ship, and so on.

Malay Technology Museum
Situated close to the Brunei Museum, it displays the lifestyle of the people of Brunei in the days gone by. Focusing on the traditional house-building techniques and other aspects of Malay life, it shows the ingenuity of the former inhabitants in their utilisation of the materials locally available to make life more attractive.

Maritime Museum
Located at Kota Batu beside the Malay Technology Museum and overlooking the Brunei River, it exhibits Brunei’s way of life related to maritime covering the evolution of local boat-building, including Sultan Bolkiah’s ship, as well as seafaring, Brunei’s role as a historical centre of maritime trade.

Cultural/Historical centres

Royal Regalia building
Located in the front of the Lapau building, Bandar Seri Begawan, it is a home to collection of royal regalia, including the royal chariot, gold and silver ceremonial armoury, the jewel-encrusted crowns used during the coronation and a replica of the throne which HM uses on the state occassions. It consists of four galleries: Royal Regalia (Coronation, 1968), Royal Exhibition Gallery, Silver Jubilee Gallery, and Constitutional History Gallery

Arts and Handicraft Centre
Situated along the Brunei River, it displays and revives traditional arts and crafts of Brunei Darussalam such as traditional sarongs of gold or silver thread called “Jong Sarat”, hand-tooled jewellery and ornaments such as the ornamental cannon or the snake-like dagger known as the “Keris” and Muslim caps “Songkok”.

Brunei Historical Centre
Located at Jalan Stoney, Bandar Seri Begawan, it’s founded to undertake research into the rich history of Brunei Darussalam. Among the areas of special emphasis are the genealogy and history of the Sultans of Brunei and Royal Family.

Tasek Merimbun

Tasek Merimbun

Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park
Located in Mukim Rambai, Tutong District, 24km from Tutong Town. Besides its large black water lake, it also has a gallery displaying flora and fauna of the surrounding area and ancient graves, showing the presence of the Dusun ethnic group who is believed to have settled there 500 years ago.

Sultan Bolkiah Mausoleum
Situated at a quiet alcove of greenery off Jalan Kota Batu, commemorates that golden age of the nation under the 5th Sultan of Brunei, known as Sultan Bolkiah or Nakhoda Ragam which means ‘Captain of Great Manner and Activity’.

National Archives
Situated at Jalan Menteri Besar, Berakas, this section holds the responsibility of the administration and management of the National Archives in accordance to the National Archives Act, 1975 revised 1983. The purpose of this section is to monitor, to collect, to preserve and to keep public records and archival materials as the national heritage and to provide information reference services.

Bubungan Duabelas
Located at Bukit Sibok, it’s home to the British Residents and the British High Commissioners since 1907, to Brunei, In 1984, the British government hands over “Bubungan Dua Belas” building to Brunei government.. Now udner the Museums Department, it is used to exhibit photographs taken between 1906 and 1959, depicting the Brunei-UK cordial relationship.

Kampong Ayer Cultural Centre
Located at Kampong Lorong Sikuna,it was built in July 2008 to provide tourists with information about the history,culture and traditions of Kampong Ayer.One of the main features of the building is an observation tower,offering tourists “sweeping views” of Kampong Ayer and Bandar Seri Begawan.The $3 million cultural centre has five galleries surrounding a main exhibition area located at the centre of the building,a tourist information centre,an area for the display and sales of handicrafts, toilets,rest and praying facilities.

Monday, 26 May 2014


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