Located within one of Kuala Lumpur’s most historic areas, the National Textiles Museum along Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin is hard to miss. That’s because the institution is housed in a uniquely designed colonial building that dates back to 1905.
The building, with its alternating red bricks and white plaster bands, was formerly the Federated Malay States Railway Station and Selangor Works Department. Today, though, it is a museum that houses various collection of textiles that mirror Malaysia’s multicultural background.
Before you step into the cool interior, spend some time outdoors to marvel at the beautiful Moghul architecture with its distinctive onion-shaped domes.
Why you should go
This free-admission museum displays the origin and development of local textiles across four distinctive galleries. More than seeing beautiful fabrics, visitors would also be able to learn more about the techniques that go into the making of each intricate piece.
The displays here will take visitors through the roles each textile had in contributing to the rich and diverse heritage of the country. If that doesn’t sound too exciting, then perhaps being on historic grounds might do the trick. Despite being over a century old, the building is well preserved and showcases the great architectural styles of the past.
What to do
Chart the history of textiles – from pre-historic times to its usage in modern trading – at the Pohon Budi Gallery. The first section also showcases processes such as weaving, embroidery and beading. Some of the country’s signature creations such as the songket, pua kumbu and telepuk are on display here.
An array of kerongsang or brooches on display at the National Textiles Museum’s Ratna Sari Gallery.
At the Pelangi Gallery, get your Instagram shots among the colourful fabrics that provide a cheerful backdrop. This gallery also highlights the multicultural aspect of the country by featuring vibrant designs from the Chinese and Baba communities, as well as from the native tribes of Sarawak and Sabah.
Elsewhere, the Teluk Berantai Gallery has a nice collection of Malay and Indian textiles and costumes. The name of the section comes from motif of interlocking bays that’s usually on the Malay songket.
As for the Ratna Sari Gallery, there are many traditional accessories that are on display here. Check out crowns, cucuk sanggul (hair pin) and pending (large waist buckle made of silver) that complete a woman’s traditional garment. Some of these are actual personal items and it’s easy to feel a pang of nostalgia as you take in the glamour of yesteryear.
Who will like it
Anyone with an interest in fabrics and designs should make a trip to the museum. There are ample showcases of traditional elegance and masterful technique in the textiles that are on display here.
The National Textiles Museum might also provide an enriching visit for students who wish to have a deeper understanding of the rich history of the country’s textile trade.