Photo: Just eat.

Made in Penang Interactive Museum

Our rating:

As one of Penang’s newer museums, opening at the end of 2013, this interactive, multi-media extravaganza urges you to “Rediscover Penang” and has the punters flowing in the front entrance. But does it merit the hype and more importantly, the 30 ringgit ticket price?



The impressive arched entrance and long alley with oblong granite flagstones and beautiful murals makes a promising start, with its invitation to enter the dockside scene by picking up a coolie’s load or trying out rickshaw handles for size. On the opposite wall a facade of Chinese shophouses with shutters and doors that can be opened are a welcome diversion as you navigate the henna and caricature stalls.

3-D interactive murals at the Made in Penang Museum

Are the 3D interactive murals at the Made in Penang Museum worth the ticket price?

Beyond the ticket desk the first room’s aim is to take you back to Penang’s origins and offers a first hint of the museum’s idea of interaction. You can enter an underwater scene cubicle, seemingly walk into a depiction of the jungle that sprawls onto the tiled floor or stand against a mural of a traditional wooden stilt house and help to hold it aloft. Beyond posing for photos there is very little to make you linger.

Jump in a rickshaw but make sure to tip the driver.

Jump in a rickshaw but make sure to tip the driver.

The room of miniatures is next up with its glass boxes of miniature scenes of traditional pastimes, food and labours: kids playing marbles, traditional stalls and shops offering up nasi lemak and porridge. With food playing such an important part in the Penang story its inclusion seems pertinent but while the accompanying blurb is informative, food models and shop scenes, never mind miniature ones, do not really translate well the aroma, buzz and taste that make these so exciting. The Labours section stretches rather lazily only to a barber and a clog maker, while there is something vaguely ridiculous about squinting into a case of miniature kids trying to locate their miniature marbles. This room has the hallmarks of a poorly curated, dusty provincial museum or unimaginative space filler, rather than the state of the art, interactive rediscovery promised.

An anxious opera character looks warily at an amateur with a makeup brush.

An anxious opera character looks warily at an amateur with a makeup brush.

Upstairs, the Theatre illuminates the story of Penang with a snappy, fun film that builds up and strips away the architecture of the island’s three dominant cultural groups, while detailing their main economic activities and festivals. For anyone with an especially short attention span it is a perfectly sized nugget but if you are hankering after a more detailed and original take on Penang’s founding and communities you can give it a miss. Offering only two long benches inside for seating, it seems that most people do.

Now for the big draw, the Trick Art Hall with Interactive Kiosks. The wonderfully cavernous walls of this former mercantile headquarters make an impressive backdrop for huge, colourful 3D murals that use optical illusions to allow you to enter into the scenes. Inspired by the unique elements that make up Penang but distorted with arresting, weird or wonderful twists and surprises, they burst with drama and action. Among the chai maker, opera star and pit viper, a mutant triffid-like monster is inspired by the carnivorous plant garden on Penang Hill. Spiderman clings to a building that happens to be Penang’s Victoria Clock Tower. A fierce Tyrannosaurus rex bounds out from a rattan weaver’s workshop and on closer inspection its scales are woven. Helpful markers on the floor show you where to position yourself to take the perfect optical illusion photo. Kids and adults alike can have a lot of fun leaping, crawling and crouching in the various poses, but if you are travelling solo or find public displays of tomfoolery inhibiting then it might be difficult to embrace.

Cling onto the Victoria Clock Tower as Spiderman ponders whether to give a hand.

Cling onto the Victoria Clock Tower as Spiderman ponders whether to lend a hand.

The interactive kiosks that zoom in on your face and superimpose a colourful opera mask are quite entertaining but those that invite you to scan your ticket are fiddly and with the reward, a crude 3D depiction of Komtar or the ferry, hardly worth the bother.

The museum is not unlike Las Vegas with its fake Eiffel tower and sphinxes. As a backdrop for some frivolous gambling, or in this case fun photos to stick on your Facebook, go right ahead. But if you are interested in art, history, culture and food, avoid the technology-wielding crowds and make for the real thing instead. With Penang chock-full of authentic shophouses, street food stalls, temples and museums, why go to the pretend version?

For my money, better to visit the State Museum and Art Gallery for one ringgit before heading to the Blue Mansion, Peranakan Mansion or Khoo Kongsi. With the leftover change buy yourself a portion of char kway teow and cendol. You might not get that funny photo for Facebook but along the way you will definitely make one or two of your own discoveries.


Made in Penang Interactive Museum
3 Pengkalan Weld, Georgetown
Mon-Fri 09:00-18:00  public holidays and weekends 09:00-21:00.
T: (04) 262 6119 
http://www.madeinpenang.my

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Location map for Made in Penang Interactive Museum


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Penang.
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