Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Friends of the Sarawak Museum (FoSM) guides to enliven visits to museum

KUCHING: Little known facts and interesting secrets will soon be unlocked to visitors of the Sarawak Museum, thanks to a new organisation called Friends of the Sarawak Museum (FoSM).

Speaking to The Borneo Post, FoSM pro-tem chairman Tony Sebastian gave an example of a story one might hear at the Sarawak Museum once their docent programmes are underway.

In the Natural History section are two orang utans, a long-time exhibit mounted in old-fashion cabinets made of wood and glass.

“The story is that the Rajah shot them,” said Tony, referring to James Brooke, the first of the White Rajahs who ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak.

Brooke had his kills packed in ice and shipped to Britain, where they were mounted, placed in their exhibition cabinet and shipped back to Sarawak. In the 1900’s, it took about three months for a ship to sail that distance one way.

"That place is chock-full of stories. You cannot expect the museum, with its huge job, to tell those stories. This is where ordinary people can come in and enhance the experience,” Tony said.

FoSM is in the process of training docents or guides, who can change how visitors experience the museum by offering guided tours. Although it is kicking off in English, they plan on expanding it to offer it in Malay and Mandarin as well.

“The first thing is to get the training module together so we know what kind of information to pass on to the docents. They need training not only in knowledge, but in how to interpret, and how to talk to tourists.”

With docents in place, the society will be able to offer guided tours on fixed hours, some tours for free, and others for a fee that will go to FoSM as a means of income to fund their operations.

“We can also make those tours available to tour operators who can build it into their packages, so they can sell a tour to the museum without having to sacrifice one of their own guides. They just link with us.”