You don’t have to travel overseas to find exciting exhibitions. Look no further than the nation’s capital!Published on 17 February 2022
It goes without saying that Kuala Lumpur is a city rich with cultural experiences, from food and fashion to buildings and lifestyle. Like many major cities, Malaysia’s capital has a diverse selection of museums and galleries.
What better way to learn about a particular country than to visit places that exhibit its history, culture and technological advancements. Aside from the educational aspects, these venues also make great Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. Ready to delve into all things wonderful at some of the best cultural gems around? Here is our top selection of museums and galleries you must visit when you’re in Kuala Lumpur.
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Did you know that Kuala Lumpur is home to the largest museum of Islamic arts in Southeast Asia? Officially opened in 1998, the Islamic Arts Museum located near the National Mosque holds more than 10,000 artefacts from across the Islamic world. Visitors will be awed by its minimalistic 21st century design laced with traditional Islamic details. It features five ornate turquoise-coloured tiled domes and an entrance reminiscent of a Persian iwan.
You will be greeted with a verse from the Quran inscribed in the mosaic tiles that frame the entrance. There are 12 permanent exhibitions spread over two levels, with spacious open galleries devoted to Arms and Armour, Textiles, Ceramics, Jewellery, Coins, Manuscripts and the Quran. The most elaborate gallery is dedicated to Architecture, which is viewed as the earliest expression of Islamic art.
National Art Gallery
The National Art Gallery sits in between the National Theatre and the National Library. Also known as Balai Seni Negara, you will find a permanent collection of over 2,500 artworks by celebrated local and foreign contemporary artists. The complex is spread out over three floors and has seven galleries including outdoor exhibition areas and a café.
It was opened in 1998 with the aim of becoming the nation’s leading centre for the development of visual arts and a repository for the national collection. The gallery is a replacement of the previous National Art Gallery that was established by the Majlis Kesenian Persekutuan (Malay Arts Council) in 1958 under the initiative of Tunku Abdul Rahman. As Malaysia’s official art institution, it has supported the endeavors of Malaysian artists through exhibitions locally and internationally since the early ’60s.
Petrosains, The Discovery Centre
Petrosains is the perfect place to immerse yourself in interactive, experiential, and hands-on exhibits, games, and experiences. Located in Suria KLCC, the centre focuses on petroleum development and futuristic technology. It also offers activities that provide an entertaining and educational experience for people of all ages, especially young children.
The main gallery begins at the lobby, where you will find a Sauber PETRONAS Formula One racing car displayed. It is a prime example of the company’s involvement in the development of advanced engine technology and performance.
The centre’s layout enables visitors to easily navigate through its museum-style concept. Petrosains is divided into 11 main interactive showcases, which can be visited in any order. The exhibit is carefully designed in an intriguing style to captivate visitors with information on petroleum that they might find interesting.
This unique museum covers more than a century of Malaysia’s telecommunications history. Telekom Museum is aptly located in a beautiful colonial building, which was saved from demolition in the mid-’80s. It was eventually decided that the building would be preserved as a heritage building and it opened as a museum in 1994.
Built in 1928, it was a manual telephone exchange before becoming British Malaya’s first mechanical exchange a decade later. The building has two very different facades, one facing Jalan Gereja, which has classic style columns while the other looking on to Jalan Raja Chulan features an archway leading into the central courtyard. The exhibitions are spread across three floors and cover the country’s telecommunications development from Morse code telegraph to digital technology.
Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery
Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery opened in 2011, replacing its predecessor, Bank Negara Money Museum. This state-of-the-art museum is located within the modernly designed Sasana Kijang building, which also houses the SEACEN Centre and the Islamic Financial Services Board.
Visitors will enter through a Money Tunnel that is lined with over RM1 million in cash of various denominations displayed behind an acrylic wall. There are four floors of exhibitions to explore. Families with kids can check out the Children’s Gallery which contains interactive displays on the value of money and the cost of everyday items. There is also a section that explains the history and role of Bank Negara as Malaysia’s central bank.
National Textile Museum
One simply cannot miss the sight of the National Textile Museum as it is perfectly situated within Merdeka Square along Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin. It is hailed as one of the most significant heritage landmarks in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. As its name suggests, this museum showcases the process and technology of textiles. Despite its historic location and being part of an old heritage building, this museum is considered relatively new as it first opened its doors in 2010.
The exhibits are divided into four galleries, namely Pohon Budi, Pelangi, Teluk Berantai and Ratna Sari. Pohon Budi Gallery showcases the tools, techniques and materials used in making textile back in the day, while Pelangi Gallery presents traditional clothes of different races and cultures. Teluk Berantai Gallery on the other hand displays classic Malay heritage. Lastly, Ratna Sari Gallery exhibits personal adornments worn by different ethnics including pieces made of gold, silver, and copper.