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The textile collection of the Museum of Asian Arts, is one of the earliest collections to be part of the museum's materials. It is part of an ethnographic collection which comprises about 5% of the total collection i.e. 300 total collected out of 6500 total collection. A total of 250 sheets of artifacts are woven or songket type. In addition, types of weaving from Thailand, pua kumbu and other shapes including type of tekatan were also collected. In accordance with the concept of the existence of this museum, used as a place of study and the public to learn aspects of artifacts through real experience not from theoretical aspects, then the collection of artifacts including textiles is expected to provide insights such as manufacturing techniques, coloring techniques, art history and so on.

The History of Collection

The earliest woven fabric obtained by the museum was a gift woven fabric from Malcolm Mac Donald, in July 1955, kain sampin songket tanah merah. To date, the fabric is still in good condition, not many holes or tears that could affect the strength of the weave. Nevertheless, a piece of cloth that serves as a liner to this cloth has been patched to prevent it from becoming weaker and torn. According to the original procurement records, kain sampin songket tanah merah are 3 pieces, but only one piece is in Museum of Asian Art, two pieces are expected to still be in Singapore. The Museum's original collection dates back to the establishment of the Museum of Asian Art at the University of Malaya, Singapore. After the Universiti Malaya campus was established in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore formed a government, then the original revenue in Singapore was divided between the two campuses. The initial focus of the collection in Singapore was largely on pottery art, sculpture art, Painting art, 3D artifact materials worth art from Asian countries. A total of 292 artifacts that were the beginning of the existence of this museum, only 3 pieces of textiles were collected. The rest is pottery art and contemporary painting At the time. Therefore, the collection available today is the result of a collection from the establishment of the Universiti Malaya campus in Kuala Lumpur, especially the greater attention by the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Malaya, Professor Ungku Aziz in adding and intensifying the collection. Since then, textiles especially woven fabrics and songket are among the collection materials of artifacts at the Museum of Asian Arts.


Museum of Asian Arts implements preventive conservation of textile collections. Since most of the collection is in the form of sarongs and shawls, the fabrics are stored in a dedicated store. These fabrics are not stored with other artifacts such as metal or wood artifacts. Metal artifacts easily trap heat and form patina and rust. While wood artifacts are easily infected with fungi and other wood enemies such as borer and bookworms such as silverfish. The museum ensures that the storage space is dry, ie the RH humidity is at 20%. Apart from air conditioning, humidity control uses a dehumidifier. The device works for 12 hours alternately with the air conditioning system. The enemies of the collection are also cockroaches and other pests such as rats. Preventive measures taken to ensure no damage due to these pests are:

  • Always ensure rat poison is installed and inspected weekly outside the building near the storage area.
  • The area near the storage space is a prohibited area from eating and drinking.
  • Ensure that the carpentry space or museum workshop is clean.
  • Ensure that there is no effect of oil on the waste disposal drain from cooking activities in the canteen, as oil is the main food of cockroaches.
  • Ensure there are no holes or spaces that allow pests to enter the textile storage space.
  • Limit the number of staff or researchers entering the storage space.
  • Ensure staff take off their shoes before entering the storage space
  • Ensure monthly inspections of collections.
  • Ensure staff wash their hands and wear gloves before touching textiles.
  • Textile storage especially sarongs and shawls are rolled up, while clothes are hung. Each rolled textile is coated with acid -free paper. Wrap using a white bandage cloth.
  • Ensure textiles are not more than 30 days on display in a year (approximately 10% of shelf life).

Last Update: 20/06/2023