Journey to the past for Gen Y

National 5 minutes, 37 seconds


HOW do you make history exciting to the millennials?

By making it alive, making it more appealing and making it more palatable to the minds and imaginations, answered the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

“History is extremely exciting! How exhilarating it would be if we were able to relive the lives of our ancestors in the past centuries, for instance, during the time when Brunei was at the height of our glory,” enthused MCYS Deputy Minister Datin Paduka Hjh Adina Othman.

The MCYS is counting on the nation’s museums to open the doors to the past and let the young generations relive the bygone days.

She added: “To be able to imagine what it was like when Antonio Pigafetta, Marryat, Cheng Ho and many others, came to Brunei, when they paid their respects to our monarch in the exquisite palace so well described in the historical records.”

And how does the ministry intend to woo the young adults to help breathe life to these historical figures?

Simply by appealing to the predilections of Generation Y as the millennials are also known. By listening to their young voices to help build the right projects for this targeted group.

Millennials are defined as those belonging to ages 18 to 34 in 2015 or in other words those born between 1981 and 1997, according to foreign websites. However, millennials can also include younger individuals who are all-tech, all the time thus also earning the name Net Generation.

The ministry, through the Museums Department and the History Centre, has been making effort towards repackaging their goods, by publishing comics on historical characters, oratory competitions, history carnival, and by working together with educational agencies.

Datin Hjh Adina said she was also pleased to see efforts undertaken by some young entrepreneurs in producing software products based on Brunei’s history.

“Soon, we will also be seeing the launch of a feature film, ‘Awang Semaun’, which is totally produced, directed, and with a young cast from Brunei. All these are inter-related to making history alive,” she said.

The deputy minister added only by doing these could they entice the young adults to visit museums and appreciate what museums could offer.

The government efforts to improve the attractions and promotions of the country’s museums by listening to the voices of the Generation Y should continue as young adults interviewed by The Brunei Times were definitely not on the positive note.

Awang Adi, 31, said he was not too keen to visit Brunei’s museums and galleries because it was not heavily promoted. “If I were to go to Penang or Malacca, for example, I would go to their museums for its history and culture because it is heavily marketed there and there is a sense of nostalgia. The museums there have also been around for decades and are well-maintained,” he said.

Awang Adi added he felt there was not enough effort to preserve the museums or authorities interacting with citizens to encourage them to visit.

He added Brunei should focus on preserving their buildings, and making our history more relatable to the younger generation.

Another interviewee, 26-year-old Alisah Husaini, said she visited the Brunei Museum when she was younger, but did not leave with a good impression because it was not properly maintained.

All these comments definitely would not fall into deaf ear as the deputy minister is very much aware of the importance of museums in educating the young generations about the country’s history and patrimony.

The deputy minister explained that museums were icons of heritage in any country, which represent preservation, conservation and restoration of cultural artefacts.

Museums, symbolise the identity of the nation, preserve and exhibit our heritage, she added.

“They remind us all of where we came from, what our ancestors went through to get to where we are today. We all have our unique national identity which we must not lose or else, we would be the same as any other person on this earth or even similar to robots,’’ Datin Hjh Adina said.

According to the deputy minister, an individual’s identity moulds what he or she is. “We must not lose that otherwise the quality of our lives, the essence of our being, will be lost,” she said.

Datin Hjh Adina called on the public to visit the museum if they want to understand their roots. “Come to the museum if you want to understand where you came from, what our forefathers went through and how we and our nation has developed to be what we are today.’’

“Without our roots, our life will be jaded and meaningless. Appreciate our history, appreciate our roots. Only by looking back and understanding what our ancestors went through, can we advance forward with more meaning and better direction,” she added.

Currently, the four full-fledged museums here are the Brunei museum, the Malay Technology museum, the Maritime Museum Brunei Darussalam and the Brunei Royal Regalia.

There are an additional four exhibition galleries, and 11 other museums or galleries, including the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre (OGDC), History Centre’s gallery and the Water Village’s Cultural gallery.

Datin Hjh Adina said there were plans to build local museums and galleries in other districts, such as the refurbishment of some of the heritage buildings in Temburong, Tutong and Belait Districts.

She added the former residence of the Belait District Officer has been refurbished last year, and would serve as an exhibition gallery for the district.

Apart from enticing Bruneians to learn more about the country’s history through visiting these museums and galleries, Datin Hjh Adina said museums would continue to play a major role in the tourism industry.

She said currently, the Royal Regalia building was one of the must-visit places in the country for tourists who are mostly curious about the Royal Family’s belongings.

“This museum has inspired many such museums in other countries, and exhibits all the beautiful regalias that were crafted especially for the royalty. These exhibits are a manifestation of the tradition and creativity of our forefathers to produce such beautiful pieces,” she said.

Meanwhile, the deputy minister said the Brunei Museums Department needs to broaden its services that involve the use of current IT-related technologies.

“This is where young Bruneians who are talented in these fields are needed to get involved in museum projects. There are many more areas of possible collaborative projects that need new talents and expertise that the Brunei Museums Department has not yet pioneered, especially in its educational programme that can provide extra-curricular activities to school children based on hands-on activities to learn about life, heritage and culture,” she said.

Currently, Datin Hjh Adina said more than 300 staff working at the Brunei Museums Department, mostly locals.

The Brunei Times