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‘Sell us your heirloom’ call slammed

Heritage Sabah has slammed Sabah Museum over its latest
call which the NGO claims encouraged looting.
KOTA KINABALU: Heritage Sabah has shot down a call by Sabah Museum to Sabahans to sell their heirlooms to the museum as a way of sharing their stories.

The NGO founder-cum-spokesman Richard Sokial cautioned that while the museum’s intention may be good, the social implications are that one’s heritage is for sale.

The outcome of such a move could also encourage looting of their ancestors’ graves for profit, he said.

“We are very concerned by this statement to buy antiques from the public because we feel that it will give the wrong impression to many locals that our heritage is for sale,” Sokial said.

Antiques such as burial jars and their contents have often made it into the local antique market over the years after being taken from their original sites.

The state museum’s recent announcement that it would buy heirlooms from the public to put on show would only make the situation of heirloom and artifact theft worse, he said.

“If families so wish, they can entrust the heirlooms to the care of Sabah Museum, but it should be as a donation or on loan not a sale and every donated artifact must be recorded,” he said.

He suggested heirloom donors be issued a certificate of donation by the museum bearing the name, image, date of possession by museum, description of the item as well as its reference number and official stamp and signature of the museum official who processed the transfer of item.

Upgrade museum storage facility

The procedure is to allow the donor family to inspect the condition of their heirlooms being kept by museums upon request.

“During my stint in the US under the IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Programme) Cultural Heritage Preservation Programme in 2008, I observed that some museums even had catalogues of items donated to the museum which is published for public reference,” Sokial said.

Concerns have been raised in the past by the public who claim several precious and irreplaceable items donated to the Sabah Museum have disappeared.

“This is one of the main reasons why people here are reluctant to part with their heirlooms as they believe that there is no guarantee of its safety,” Sokial said.

It is standard practice for museums everywhere to only display a third of their collections with the remaining either placed in storage or for restoration and preservation.

“To inspire public confidence, the Sabah Museum should be allocated proper funding to upgrade their storage facility for better security for the artifacts acquired such as custom ID identification and 24-hour CCTV.

“Sabah Museum carries an immense public responsibility as the custodian of Sabah’s history and culture and it needs the support from the public and concerned NGOs like Heritage Sabah to assist and suggest new ways to showcase our culture in a positive way”, he said.

Heritage Sabah has suggested that the only items Sabah Museum should consider purchasing are those that have been found sold to private collections overseas, and then only acquire items identified by researchers and curators as being crucial to the understanding of the native culture.

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