KUCHING: The old Sarawak Museum’s building will be temporarily closed until 2020 for refurbishment works.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the process of conserving the building was part of the Sarawak Museum Campus project, which included constructing a new museum building.
“We have to move all the artefacts from the old building for safekeeping. We will renovate the old building while maintaining its facade and structure.
“This is an important historical sight for tourists and we hope the new campus will be completed on time. It is progressing quite well,” he told reporters at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here.
Abang Johari said the museum would initially remain free of charge for visitors upon reopening after the RM38mil refurbishment.
He said there were plans to charge a nominal entry fee in the future, but this would only be decided after the completion of the project.
Sarawak Museum Department director Ipoi Datan said the old building was the museum’s main attraction in the past, receiving 600,000 to 800,000 visitors a year.
“Lately it has dropped to around 400,000 visitors,” he said.
According to the department, the gazetted museum building, built in 1891 by Sir Charles Brooke on the advise of British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, is in urgent need of physical conservation, rewiring and upgrading of mechanical and electrical services. Its old air-conditioning units have broken down and are beyond repair while the roof has multiple leaks.
The building will be closed to the public from Oct 23 until early 2020. When it reopens, it will display mainly zoological specimens in a modern, interpretative and interactive format.
The department has made plans to remove all moveable artefacts, specimens and showcases to a temporary location for safekeeping and conservation, before refurbishment works commence.
The zoological specimens will be relocated to the Natural History building, where the public can observe how they are conserved, cleaned and prepared for the new museum’s exhibitions.
The ethnographic and other exhibits will be temporarily stored at the State Library’s repository before being moved permanently to the department’s new storage and conservation building in 2019.
The department will open a project exhibition at the Art Museum in October to inform the public on the progress, design and concept of the new Sarawak Museum and the conservation works on the old building.