SANDAKAN – Museums are said to hold the cultural wealth of a nation.
From historical treasures to art and culture, museums are a must-visit place for tourists who want to glean information and knowledge.
In Sandakan and Kinabatangan, the Sandakan Heritage Museum, Agnes Keith House and Agop Batu Tulug are popular among visitors to Sabah.
From January to August 2015, a total of 26,167 domestic and international tourists were recorded at these three museums at the east coast of Sabah.
Sabah East Coast Museums curator Juanis Ogak said the figure comprises 1,402 foreigners and 24,765 locals.
From this number, he said the Agnes Keith House received the most visitors with 13,088 people, followed by Sandakan Heritage Museum (7,867) and Agop Batu Tulug (5,212).
“These three museums are among the main heritage and culture-based attractions in the districts of Sandakan and Kinabatangan,” he told Bernama here.
AGNES KEITH HOUSE
The Agnes Keith House is a British colonial government quarters called Newlands, where Agnes Keith lived with her husband, a forest curator.
Keith, an American author known for her book Land Below The Wind, which tells about the life of the local community during British rule promoted Sabah to the world.
The house, among the first timber dwellings built by the British, was where Keith and her family lived from 1930 to 1942.
The house was burnt down during World War II but was rebuilt in the original location with the same specifications by the British North Borneo Chartered Company in 1946.
Keith’s family continued to reside in the house until 1952. They were later replaced by her husband’s successor, a forestry officer and volunteers from abroad.
After 1963, the house was left vacant until the Sabah Museum Department and the Museum and Antiquities Department restored the house in 2001.
The restoration and preservation of the house are a tribute to Keith for introducing Sabah to the world through her writings.
Juanis said the house has become a tourism product, adding that RM1.7 million was allocated by the Museum and Antiquities Department for restoration works.
SANDAKAN HERITAGE MUSEUM
Meanwhile, Juanis said the Sandakan Heritage Museum showcases the pre-war and post-war history of Sandakan.
The main objective of the displays at the museum is to allow the local community to contribute historical and cultural items and foster awareness about Sandakan’s role as the main contributor towards Sabah’s sociocultural and socioeconomic development.
On the ground floor of the Heritage Museum, situated next to the Sandakan Municipal Council building, is the Safari in Sandakan gallery that exhibits photographs of British North Borneo legacies Martin and Osa Johnson.
The museum opens its door to the public daily from 9am to 5pm. Entrance is free.
AGOP BATU TULUG MUSEUM
The Agop Batu Tulug museum in Kinabatangan, which was once log coffin burial site about 500 to 900 year ago is also a tourist attraction.
Juanis said coffin burial practices were common in Sabah and there are over 125 ancient coffins in the Agop Batu Tulug Caves, making the Sabah culture more unique.
The museum is located in Kampung Batu Puteh, about 41 kilometres from Kota Kinabatangan township or 80 kilometres from Sandakan town.
The limestone hill reaches 40 metres in height and is part of the Labang limestone formation that is 20-25 million years old.
There are three main caves in Agop Batu Tulug, namely Agop Sawat (upper cave), Agop Lintanga (middle cave) and Agop Suriba (lower cave).
THE APPEAL OF HERITAGE-BASED TOURISM
Sandakan Tourism Association chairman Johnny Lim said the Agnes Keith House and Sandakan Heritage Museum were some of the district’s main heritage-based attractions.
He said they were also part of the 10 locations in the Sandakan Heritage Trail.
The trail starts from the Jamek Mosque and goes through the William Prayer Monument, Sandakan War Monument, 100-step staircase, Agnes Keith House, Sandakan Heritage Museum, Sam Sing Kung Temple and St. Michael’s Church.
He said heritage-based tourism products were vital in drawing more local and international tourists.
For a long-term programme, the association plans to work with the museum and gallery to preserve heritage artifacts. – BERNAMA