When I’m travelling, I always enjoy visits to museums. It’s true to say that I’m spoiled for choice here in Penang, as history is very much at the core of the identity of the locals.
The list includes the Penang 3D Trick Art Museum, two separate camera museums, the Made in Penang Interactive Museum, the new Colonial Penang Museum, the War Museum, Toy Museum, Sun Yat-sen Museum, Penang Islamic Museum, Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum, the iBox Museum of Glass, and more.
Some of them would have to be gimmicks to amuse tourists. Others would be intended for a niche clientele. Or perhaps they are just the private owners’ labour of love.
The restaurant I discovered by chance on Monday – ZhengHe - had its own museum and art gallery upstairs, and I found going upstairs for a visit a very satisfying after dinner activity.
The restaurant’s building is itself a very well maintained museum piece. It spans four interconnected shops that would have been built in the 19th century. The staircase I ascended was built without any nails with original merbau wood.
I met the owner, and he is obviously very proud of the museum and must spend a lot of money keeping it in such condition. It is a pity that I was the only diner, and it was empty the following night when I walked past, despite good reviews on TripAdvisor.
Yesterday I went to the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery, which was established in 1821 and houses many state treasures including furniture, jewellery and costumes.
It is supposed to be one of the best presented museums in the country, but it was weighted in favour of the stories of the elites and dominated by ‘old wares’ and tableau presentations. It just seemed ‘old’. Not the modern ‘interpretation centre’ style of museum that I find it easier to engage with.