Talents… here is a poem by an eminent SHS member:

Schoolboy Memories of the old Sarawak Museum

In the 1960s and 70s, many years ago
when I was still a young lad at school
A visit to the Sarawak Museum was so
memorable, exciting and very cool

The building sat atop a grassy slope
Classic and classy, what a pretty view
Opened 1891 by Rajah Charles with the lofty hope
that one day our collection might even rival Kew

Brick walls, coloured beige and grey
A roof of belian shingle tiles all through
Two floors of large rooms & corridor way
Main entrance flanked by a cannon or two

Wondrous exhibits filled the place
Strange, beautiful, some were scary too
Creatures and objects some in glass case
Artefacts and photographs for all to view

I learnt early what Natural History was all about
Creatures, plants, organisms even microbe
Sarawak was a biodiversity hub, no doubt
attracting naturalists from all around the globe

The room of stuffed creatures, first place I’d go
Highlight were two orang utans, named Jill & Jack
Also snakes, rats, a turtle laying eggs by the score
And a deer, honey bear, buffalo with a bird on its back

Python bones graced the wall by a door
Skeleton of a whale bolted to the ceiling tight
A huge stuffed crocodile lay on the floor
while his living cousin stayed in the aquarium outside

A cave mockup with bats & birds in the air
Meant to represent Niah I think
Even guano was included in the display
Some visitors swear they could detect the stink

Butterflies in drawers neatly pinned in a row
Cicadas, locusts and beetles (not the singing sort)
Many other insects the names I do not know
An entomologist I certainly am not

The mockup Dayak longhouse looked most realistic and true
made from bamboo, wood and bark so neat
Showing bilek, sadau, ladder, pots … human skulls too
Some tuak could have made it even more complete 😁

Display of culture & heritage of all ethnicities
Attire, art, tools reflecting handicraft and trade
Lots of hats, beads, parangs and potteries
Even a large traditional Chinese wedding bed

Though wood-carved statues were aplenty
my memory of a certain lifesize wooden man is forever stuck
Standing erect and stiff for the world to see
Most passing schoolboys would touch it just for luck 😄

The Petroleum Industry displays were in an air-con zone
explaining how various oil extraction processes fit
Scale models of wells, drill bits, tanks & pumps were shown
And when we pressed buttons, parts of the exhibits were lit

To learn of Sarawak’s White Rajah history
visiting the Brooke section was a must
Key to Sarawak’s early development trajectory
They ruled Sarawak from 1841 for a century plus

Before concluding I must also mention …

The attractions of the Sarawak Museum grounds by day
Aquarium, Garden and Summer House were key
And each Sunday evening, the Police Brass Band would play
beautiful tunes to delight the community

© James S L Yong (2021)
With acknowledgements to John Lee and Norbert Liew for sharing their own recollections of the Sarawak Museum