If this is your first visit to the Colonial Penang Museum then you are in for a surprise. You probably expected it to be about the British colonial period in Penang.
Instead this spacious bungalow contains a fantastic collection of antique furniture, gorgeous stained glass windows and hundreds of priceless ornaments, artworks and collectibles.
In terms of sheer quality of the exhibits, this has to be among the top museums in Malaysia.
During the colonial era, the British created the conditions for Penang to become a vibrant, cosmopolitan free port attracting successful merchants and traders from all over the world, who amassed tremendous wealth and liked to show it off.
The Chinese and Peranakans (Baba-Nyonya) particularly thrived under British rule and they emulated and sought favour with the English by building sprawling European style mansions and filling these with the best that money could buy from Europe, China and elsewhere.
The founder of this museum, Madam Jasmine Tan, assembled this wonderful collection of artefacts over half a century, gathered from the mansions of wealthy merchants in the leafy, opulent districts of George Town, Penang and the region.
Guided-tours around the museum are available, and the guides are knowledgeable, cheerful and entertaining.
There are many beautiful pieces in this museum which you will have to see for yourself but here are a few of the highlights:
There are a number of splendid stained glass windows on show, depicting non-religious subjects, created by celebrated Irish artists such as Kathleen Quigley and Hubert McGoldrick and famous English artist and designer William Morris.
Like all good museums there is a gift shop selling a range of tasteful items such as these spoons recovered from the ‘Desaru’ shipwreck, a Chinese junk full of ceramics which sank off the coast of Johor in the 1830s. There are also hand-painted perfume bottles, handmade jewellery and much more.
If you like antique furniture, works of art and fine things you will not want to miss this museum. Open daily from 9.30am to 6.30pm.
7 Jalan DS Ramanathan (Scott Road)
Pulau Tikus 10350
GPS: 5.429156, 100.306396
Contact: 04-2288561 / 012 5288005
This article first appeared in Malaysian Traveller.