Fort Margherita reopens

Fort Margherita in Petra Jaya which houses the Brooke Gallery. Photo: Ramidi Subari

KUCHING: The iconic Kuching landmark Fort Margherita has reopened its doors to the public effective today (July 13).

The heritage building which was used for the Brooke Gallery was closed for about four months due to implementation of the movement control order (MCO) to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brooke Museums manager Salliza Sideni said most of the structures are still the same and a big portion of them were made of Belian wood — an indigenous ironwood which can only be found in Borneo.

The ‘Zahora’ a figurehead from the Brooke era yacht. Photo: Ramidi Subari

About 70 percent of the artefacts in the gallery were obtained from Brooke Trust based in London, United Kingdom while some others were donated by families from Australia. Amongst the items were a brass cannon ‘Bujang Sadok’ and the figurehead from the Brooke era yacht named ‘Zahora’.

“The Brooke Gallery tells the story about the early history of Sarawak from the times the state was under Brunei’s reign, how it ended up given to Rajah James Brooke, and stories about local leaders such as Datuk Patinggi Ali.

“If members of the public come here, they will learn more about the birth and development of Sarawak from Brunei times to the formation of Malaysia,” she said.

Some of the items displayed at the Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita. Photo: Ramidi Subari

She further said in conjunction with Fort Margherita’s 140th anniversary this year, the gallery is also in efforts to bring in more artefacts with the newest one being an ornamental wooden paddle.

“By doing that, we hope to have more people come visit the gallery as well as learn and appreciate our rich history,” she said when unveiling the artefact at the Brooke Gallery here today.

A section of the Brooke Gallery. Photo: Ramidi Subari

The Brooke Gallery started in 2016 and ever since then; it has welcomed about 100,000 visitors in the span of about four years.

Salliza further shared that prior to the gallery’s opening, some parts of the building were kept as it was so that the people will be able to see the original brick works.

She also hinted that bigger plans are coming at the end of the year as she gleefully described it as “something will come back to the Fort, but not ghosts”.

A vessel in the Brooke era. Photo: Ramidi Subari

The operations of the gallery will be done in accordance to the standard operating procedure (SOP) and guidelines set by the government.

She also said that the opening of Brooke Gallery will be followed by reopening of its sister museum, Ranee Museum, possibly next month.

James Brooke, as a young explorer who later became the rajah of Sarawak. Photo: Ramidi Subari