Image: Courtesy of Museums Department

Brunei observes the International Museum Day on May 18 every year, a celebration that is also participated by museums around the world with hopes to spread awareness on the significance and relevance of museums in the modern society.

This year’s theme dubbed “Museums for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion” which is organised by International Council of Museums (ICOM), aims to educate people about the importance of museum institutions in promoting solidarity and peace within the society as well as appreciation towards differences in our lives.

Footage: Courtesy of Museums Department | Video editor: Faza Suraj

In an exclusive interview with The Bruneian, Acting Director of Museums Department Nor Masitirena Haji Suhaini said that the department is highly supportive of ICOM’s objective especially in embedding greater understanding and appreciation of cultures, traditions and heritage.

“This is in-line with the Museums Department mission, where we are committed to ensure our museums, galleries and parks remain key avenues to showcase and share Brunei’s unique and vibrant culture and heritage,” she said.

Museums Department in brief

The department plays an important role in providing avenues for everyone to reflect and experience the Bruneian distinct cultures and heritage.

Royal Regalia Museum, one of the museums under Museums Department. Image: Museums Department
Royal umbrellas on display at the Royal Regalia Museum. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department

“Our museums, galleries and park facilities continue to be the favourite destinations, for both locals and foreign tourists,” she said, adding that it noted an ever increasing number of visitors to museums, galleries and parks nationwide.

At present, the department manages eight museums, galleries, parks and sites.

Meanwhile, under the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act, 1967 revised 1984, 1990 and 2002; the museums department is also looking after 27 monuments in the country.

The Celapa Kerbau Tembaga, one of Brunei’s traditional handicrafts made out of copper. Image: Museums Department
A Brunei cannon or known as “bedil”

Moreover, the department has been promoting museums’ premises and historical sites in phases such as the Heritage Trail project.

“We have installed informative signage at selective historical sites and places of interest, to provide directions and brief information for visitors or history enthusiasts,” added the acting director.

Collection size and types

The museum department collection size has reached almost half a million of invaluable artefacts and materials such as paintings, cultural, flora and fauna as well as archaeological items.

Paintings on display at the lobby of one of the museum premises. Image: Museums Department
The Malay Technology Museum located in Kota Batu. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department

“Building worthy collection takes time and we have been collecting since the 1950s,” said Nor Masitirena.

The amount of energy and resources required to care, maintain, preserve, conserve and sustain is quite intense, depending on the age of each artefact in the collection.

All artefacts are well preserved and properly stored by the museum’s trained personnel from the Conservation and Restoration Section and the Acquisition Section, respectively.

A museum staff seen doing some conservation works. Image: Museums Department
A museum staff working at the library section back then. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department

It is the department’s mission to ensure every item in the collection gets a chance to be showcased and shared with members of the public while appreciating the historical discovery.

“Curating the right storyline for our exhibition takes time and involves multiple stakeholders. We normally conduct around 5-10 temporary exhibitions nationwide annually,” she said, adding that they also held travelling exhibitions within and outside the country such as Singapore.

Staying relevant in the society

A museum is an important place for education, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace within the society.

Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park in the Tutong District. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department
Researchers and museum staff seen doing some archaeological works back then. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department

Not only the museums garnered visits to the galleries and exhibitions, but the department is also active in customising programmes such as school visits and roadshows, based on requests, which are targeted at the younger demographics.

Moreover, the museums department long-term plan is to curate more notable exhibitions and activities in collaboration with selective stakeholders, communities, non-government organisations and foreign missions in the country, as part of its outreach initiative.

“Such initiative is hoped to raise the quality of our exhibitions in terms of diversity and creativity. We also believe enhanced engagements with our stakeholders will promote and embed a sense of shared responsibility and pride in the preservation and protection of our cultures and heritage,” said the acting director.

School kids seen buying museum magazines from a museum staff. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department
The National Archives building located on Jalan Menteri Besar. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department

With the current COVID-19 situation in the sultanate, many public activities had to be put on hold including visiting the museum whereby safety and well-being of everyone remains as the department’s top priority at this time.

“Since the outbreak, we have temporarily closed our doors to the public commencing March 18 and have also activated our Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

In the absence of the usual physical visits or face-to-face interaction at the museums facilities, the department has initiated the e-exhibition platform https://bruneimuseumsonline.wixsite.com/website that provides key information about their facilities and exhibitions.

“We are also posting snippets of our collections and latest activities on our social media accounts to provide timely information to our audience and followers. Our team will continue to ensure the online content are regularly updated to encourage everyone to remain connected with us virtually,” concluded Nor Masitirena.

The Belait District Museum. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department
The Maritime Museum located in Kota Batu. Image: Courtesy of Museums Department

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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