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National Textile Museum

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For the textile and fabric aficionado, the National Textile Museum should be considered a must see, but even for those who can’t tell songket from batik, this museum is worth a wander through—and admission is free!

You’ll find the museum at the southeast corner of the greater Merdeka Square area, housed in a beautiful and historic building which dates back to 1905 when it housed the headquarters of the Federated Malay States Railway. Designed by architect Arthur Hubback, the building was intended to blend with the similarly styled colonial administrative offices (at the time) across the road. After a string of tenants, refurbishments began in 2007 and in 2010 the current museum opened to the public.

Samples are drawn from across the country. Photo taken in or around National Textile Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Stuart McDonald.

Samples are drawn from across the country. Photo: Stuart McDonald

As with the National Museum, the National Textile Museum hosts four colour-coded galleries, two on the ground floor and two on the upper floor. The Pohon Budi Gallery is to your left as you enter the museum and this concentrates on traditional techniques for creating textiles such as songket, telepuk (where woven fabric is gilded with gold leaf) and batik (among others). Note that the receptionist will most likely wave you into the gallery at the entrance by the desk, but this is actually the end of the gallery—if you’re a stickler for chronology, walk around the back (behind the stairs) and start from there.

The other side of the ground floor is given over to the Pelangi Gallery which showcases textiles from across the many ethnic groups which make up Malaysia. All are clearly labelled in English and Malay, though as most of the displays are in glass cases, you can’t actually touch many of the fabrics and photography is a bit tricky (no flash photography is allowed).

Impressive artistry. Photo taken in or around National Textile Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Stuart McDonald.

Impressive artistry. Photo: Stuart McDonald

With the upper two galleries, the Ratna Sari Gallery displays some lovely headdresses, jewellery, brooches, earrings, shoes and even a small collection of kris—we do wish some of these displays were a little better lit. The Teluk Berantai Gallery rounds out the upper floor offerings and concentrates on gold thread embroidery. While you are upstairs, walk through the glass doors onto the upstairs veranda for some decent views across towards the Merdeka Square.

Admission is free and if you’re already exploring the Merdeka Square area, this is certainly worth popping into. The museum is roughly equidistant between Pasar Seni and Masjid Jamek LRT stations.

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National Textile Museum
26 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin
Mo–Su: 09:00–18:00
T: (03) 2694 3457 F: (03) 2694 3466;
Admission: Free

Location map for National Textile Museum

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