Museums should evolve with the times

A visitor studying one the classic bicycles at an exhibition taking place at the Muzium Darul Ridzuan in Ipoh.

Museums are deemed losing lustre in this digital era, with a number of Perak residents even commenting that they have forgotten museums still exist.

With the exception of students visiting museums as part of their school trips, these visits generally rank low on most people’s to-do lists.

Confessing that he has never visited any local museums, be it in his hometown of Penang or in Perak where he currently resides, businessman Gordon Teoh said he was of the impression that museums were boring and in a bad shape.

“From what I’ve gathered and heard from others, there really isn’t any point in visiting our museums.

“Neither do I bother taking my children there as I know they won’t be interested.

The Perak Geological Museum in Ipoh is considered one of the better museums in Perak with engaging exhibits.
The Perak Geological Museum in Ipoh is considered one of the better museums in Perak with engaging exhibits.

“In fact, I think they’ll be able to learn more from the Internet and by reading books than visiting our museums,” he said.

Teoh said more needed to be done to reintroduce museums to the masses.

“Our museums need to have the ‘wow’ factor like those overseas and since this is the age of the Internet and technology, there must be more interactive exhibits to attract people,” he added.

Like Teoh, 31-year-old housewife Annierita Kaur Virk has refrained from bringing her three children to the Darul Ridzuan Museum after hearing less than rosy reviews of it from her friends.

“My last visit there was during my school days, a good 20 years ago. And it didn’t leave a very good impression on me.

“I wanted to visit again with my children recently but a friend advised me not to waste my time.

An exhibit detailing the history of tin mining at the Perak Geological Museum in Ipoh.
An exhibit detailing the history of tin mining at the Perak Geological Museum in Ipoh.

“Whether or not it’s in a sorry state, I wouldn’t know, as there isn’t any information about it.

“There is absolutely no promotion or advertising on our museums to attract visitors,” Annierita said, adding that until approached by MetroPerak for her views, she had forgotten that another museum, the Perak Geological Museum, even existed in Ipoh.

She was hopeful that more would be done by the authorities to improve the state of local museums.

“Museums are still relevant and can be informative provided they have good exhibits and artefacts,” she added.

Mother-of-two, Elizabeth Ng, 40, a Johorean residing in Ipoh, was “introduced” to the Perak Geological Museum during her children’s school trip two years ago.

“I was pleasantly surprised that it was well maintained and good enough for children, although I don’t think they would be interested when they grow older.

“As there wasn’t enough time during the school trip, we made a second trip there. The kids were taken in by the interactive exhibits whereas I enjoyed learning about the history of Ipoh, which is built on rocks.

“I think specialised museums such as the geological museum and the Muzium Padi, which we also visited during a trip to Kedah, are educational and good places for children to learn. After all, we can’t be just passing our time shopping and visiting waterparks all the time, right?

“Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about our history museums, which are boring and lame.

“There aren’t enough exhibits, and not all exhibits are provided with information. Perhaps all these are due to budget constraints,” she added.

Noting that more needed to be done to improve the condition and also to attract the public, Ng said even schools were organising less trips to museums these days.

Meanwhile, Perak Museum director Nor Hanisah Ahmad said for museums to thrive in today’s modern society, the mentality of the society had to change as a whole.

She said the onus to revive local public museums should not only be placed on the government but also schools and parents.

“For the Perak Museum, we hold many activities every year to attract visitors and recently, the ‘Staying Overnight in the Museum’ proved to be one of the most successful programmes.

“There are also many workshops, talks, carnivals and fun activities like exploration games and treasure hunts conducted at the museum.

“But ultimately, it is also the people’s mentality towards the ‘attractiveness’ of museums that needs to change.

“If school teachers themselves aren’t interested in learning more about local history, how are they going to inculcate interest in history among their students?

“Organising school trips to museums is the best way to let the younger generation know more about their heritage and history, as well as to increase their knowledge,” she said.

Acknowledging that there are ups and downs in the number of visitor arrivals to the Perak Museum in recent years, Nor Hanisah pointed out that the museum’s introduction of RM2 as entrance fee since 2014 was the main factor of the decline.

A visitor trying to capture a picture of an interactive dinosaur at the Perak Geological Museum in Ipoh. — ?Photos by ? SAIFUL BAHRI and AMANDA YEAP
A visitor trying to capture a picture of an interactive dinosaur at the Perak Geological Museum in Ipoh. — Photos by SAIFUL BAHRI and AMANDA YEAP

“It used to be free before this, but maintenance costs are increasing. Coupled with our budget cuts from the Government, we think that RM2 is still not an expensive price to pay for something that would benefit visitors.

“People today are willing to spend more than RM10 for a two-hour movie in cinemas, but for RM2 to learn more and gain knowledge, they hesitate,” she said.

However, Nor Hanisah said things were starting to look up in 2015 as they recorded more visitors.

“It is probably because they realised that although with the RM2 entrance fee, we did a lot to upgrade the lighting, facilities and exhibits.

“Things still aren’t too bad for us right now, but we hope that people would also remember the importance of museums.

“Parents and teachers, when it’s the school holidays, just bring your kids to visit museums. There is always something new to learn with every trip,” she said.

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