Penang’s fascinating history immortalised in state museum

Penang State Museum.

The Penang State Museum is the leading official museum for Penang and is operated by the Penang State Museum Board which also operates the Penang State Art Gallery.

Since 1964 the museum has been housed in a heritage building on Farquhar Street opposite the Courts complex. The building dates back to 1816 and was originally used by the Penang Free School.

Stern looking headmasters from 1891-1931 of the Penang Free School. Free School does not mean free of charge but freely open to students irrespective of race or religion.

In December 2018 the museum was closed for some time due to restoration and upgrading works. There is no indication on when it will reopen.

There are some bushes growing on the roof which will cause further damage to the fabric of this fine old building unless they are not promptly removed.

A sign outside the museum says some of the exhibits have been shifted to a semi-permanent exhibition at 57 Macalister Road.
CAPTION: 57 Macalister Road is another fine old heritage building formerly known as King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, built in 1912.
A plaque outside records the list of contributions to the memorial fund.

A plaque outside records the list of contributions to the memorial fund which presumably helped pay for its construction. The list reads like a Who’s Who of the most important companies and individuals in Penang at that time.

Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, gave US$500 which was rather miserly compared to the generosity of the German Huttenbach brothers (US$5,000 each).

The Macalister premises has been leased by the museum since 2010 and below are a few of the exhibits which you can find here:

Malay costumes and family photos.

Separate rooms display furniture, clothing, photos and other artefacts pertaining to the main ethnic communities making up Penang’s unique culture, namely Malay, Chinese, Indian and Peranakan.

Suffolk House was the mansion on Francis Light’s estate.

The history of Penang is well covered and the importance of the spice trade is explained. Visitors can sniff samples of 15 different types of spice grown or traded in Penang.

A collection of oil paintings by Captain Robert Smith in the year 1818 show the spice plantations at Glugor, the view from the convalescent bungalow on Penang Hill and the stately mansion Suffolk House.

British colonial coat-of-arms.
Mobile cigarette stall.
One of the old carriages from the Penang Hill Funicular Railway.

This article first appeared in malaysia-traveller.com