Penang Museum and Art Gallery
As early as 1940, a museum had existed in Penang, located at St. Xavier's
Institution. This modest museum was destroyed during the Second World
War. In 1956, under the encouragement of a Mr. Bingham, the nucleus
of a new museum took shape at a residence in Northam Road (Jalan Sultan
Ahmad Shah). When the building was demolished, the available collections
of artifacts and archives were scattered. The initiative to run a
museum was subsequently left to historical and arts societies which
held lectures, exhibitions and undertook research.
The proposal to have a state museum in Penang was suggested by
the state government in 1962. The first Prime Minister of the nation,
Tunku Abdul Rahman, had proposed that the existing Hutchings School
be utilised for the project. The school was the premise of the Penang
Free School where he and many leading citizens of the country had
Work began in 1963 with the formation of a working committee. By
July 1964, both the receipt of artifacts and reconstruction of the
school building were proceeding smoothly. The State Management Committee
was formed and the Museum was officially opened on 14 April 1965.
In the same year, the art gallery was added to the Museum. The
State Secretary functioned as the Chairman of the Management until
1971, when the Museum Board Enactment was passed by the State Legislative
Two years later in 1973, the State Museum Board was formed and
made a statutory body. The newly-appointed curator was made secretary
of the Board to be responsible for the everyday management of the
The Museum recently underwent a complete renovation.
Today, the Museum possesses archive and artifacts that are state
treasures. Outstanding amongst these are eight of the ten original
oil paintings executed by Captain Robert Smith (the remaining two
being in a private collection).
Other artifacts of note include extensive collections of Baba Nyonya
porcelain, furniture, jewellery and costumes that are unsurpassed
in their artistic beauty and historical value.
The Museum is the history of, and a tribute to, the peoples of
the island. It emphasises the multi-cultural composition of the
state and demonstrates unity in diversity. The inherent grace and
cultural heritage of each community are reflected in the national
treasures, cultural and religious performances and the mores of
each individual society.
The displays in the Museum render an instant picture of what Penang
was and what it is today; it is a microcosm of the macrocosm outside,
past and present.
Together, the peoples of Penang have attracted and impressed visitors
with their harmonious coexistence such as not seen in many parts
of the world. This harmony continues to weave "a spell which
makes those who have never been, wish to go there, those who live
there want to stay, and fills those who have spent their appointed
hour or so with a longing to return" (J.W. Clark, George Town,
Penang Illustrated Guide, Margaret Adams [comp.] 1952).
Unfortunately, as is the case with cities that are developing rapidly,
Penang has lost a significant amount of its identity through the
unfortunate destruction of many of its heritage buildings, monuments
and even the renaming of streets. Still, much of this history and
character is bound up in the remaining artifacts and landmarks.
Realisation that the "survival of historic areas is of capital
importance to every people seeking to preserve their true cultural
dimension and their individuality" (The General Conference
of the UNESCO, 1976) has brought concerned bodies together in their
effort to conserve remaining priceless heritage. Only such concerted
efforts will keep alive the past that Penang has. And it is this
past that has imbued Penang with its soul and its presence today.
The State Museum strives to maintain and enhance this heritage
for both Penangites and visitors from near and far.
Opening hours :
9.00am to 5.00pm - Saturday to Thursday
Admission Fees: RM1.00 (Adult)
Penang Museum and Art Gallery
Address: Lebuh Farquhar