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A Historical Monument: Limbang Museum

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Photo from Sarawak Tourism

Limbang museum is the first museum open to the public in the northern part of Sarawak. It was officially open by the then Minister for Social Development Datuk Adenan Haji Satem on August 27, 1994. The other two museums found in the region are the Baram museum in Marudi and the Niah museum in Miri.

The two storey solid wooden building housing the museum today was built in the year 1897 as a fort by the second White Rajah, Charles Brooke to impose peace and order in the region where warfare among the local tribes prevailed. The ground floor of the building was used as a jail and also a storage space during the Brooke rule. In 1985, the building was gazetted as an official monument. It was used for administrative purpose housing the Resident and the District office of the division and also other government departments before it was gazatted as a historical building.

The presence museum building is a new structure built on the original design in 1991 after the original building was burnt down in Sept 1989. The museum is located within a walking distance from the Limbang town. It is one of the tourist attractions in the border town which is a popular weekend resort for tourists from the neighbouring Brunei Darussalem.

The museum building is located on a hill overlooking the Limbang river. There are a few parking lots in the front compound for visitors’ cars. From the parking area, two flights of stairs are leading visitors up the hill slope to the museum building. At a service counter on the ground floor the visitors are required to register themselves before they enter the museum. No camera is allowed without prior permission. Here, rules imposed by the Sarawak Museum are as strictly adhered to as at any other museums in the state.

Besides the building itself, the two cannons located in front of the museum are part of the historical landmark left behind by the Brooke government. Today, the ground floor of the building is mainly used for administrative purpose with little exhibits except a Malay fishing boat of its original size which is displayed in the middle of the lobby. The boat is equipped with traditional gears and filled with local handicrafts.
The main exhibition hall of the museum is located upstairs. More stairs to climb though before you can get there. From a spacious veranda upstairs facing the road, visitors can enjoy the scenic slow flowing Limbang river and the tranquil Malay villages dotted the river bank opposite. The rustic atmosphere is a big contrast to the burstling town of Limbang.

Inside the hall near the entrance is an exhibition of the archaeological items unearthed from the several historical sites found in the Limbang division. They are namely Pulau Jai Jai, Bukit Mas, Sungai Jukut, Batu Weng, Long Lopong, Long Semado, and Long Kumap. They are obviously the earliest evidences of civilization in northern Sarawak. Pictures of community and political leaders were hung on the walls nearby the entrance. They had during their term of office served the people in Limbang and had contributed to the local social economic development.
Several books and important documents on the local social, economic and political development are also displayed. Further in the hall is a vivid display of the intricate and colourful crafts and arts of the Bisaya, Malays, and Lun Bawang and other communities found in the division.
There are beadwork, musical instruments, traditional customs, basketry, kitchen utensils, harvesting gears, and many smaller items which are usually gone unnoticed by visitors. The local people donated almost all the display items in the museum..

Before you leave, you might want to take a few snaps of interesting and memorable picture to bring home. I think the 5.5 meter long "Pagul" pole erected near the car park becomes a good backdrop. It is made from a whole belian. One side of the pole is curved with the motif of gibbon. The signboard placed near the pole tells you that the original Pagul was found at Batang Pirak in Nanga Medamit. It was erected near the river in honor of Tama Usun, a Tabun chief lived a century ago. The side facing the river has the motif of gibbon.

The "fafan" buidling is located nearby the Pagul pole. "Fafan" a traditional past time of the Tagal people, one of the indigenous group belonging to the Orang Ulu community. The centre part of the "fafan" building floor is lower and is bounceful with several logs placed underneath acted as springs so that you bounce like an aerobatic by jumping on it.

In the traditional game, one or more people can jump to their best in the "fafan" while the villagers sit round the Centre, watch the game, and cheer with the players. The harder the players jump, the higher they spring into the air, and the louder the crowd cheer, and the merrier the atmosphere. The game is usually perform to celebrate the coming of the warriors and important guests.

Another landmark in the museum compound is a solid buffalo status fenced in by iron railing. Buffalo plays an important part in the daily lives of the Lun Bawang, and Kelabit community especially in the olden days. Buffalo was used as a means of transport, dowry, source of food, in the field, and as a sport. It was so useful that in the past every family owned at least one buffalo. Buffalo was an indication of wealth and social status. Today buffalo is still an important beast to the Lun Bawang and Kelabit families residing in the Bakelalan and Bario highland areas.

By NT Lau 13.10.98
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Article recreated with permission for from author.

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