Styled after Murut and Rungus longhouses, the buildings of the Sabah State Museum are set in grounds that also hold several splendid steam engines. The botanical garden in front of the museum is bordered by finely crafted traditional houses, representing all Sabah’s major tribes and known as the Heritage Village (Kampung Warisan).
The other highlight of the complex, the ethnographic collection in the main building, includes human skulls dating from Sabah’s head-hunting days, and a sininggazanak, a totemic wooden figurine placed in the field of a Kadazan man who died without heirs. Photographs in the history gallery depict the city when Jalan Gaya still constituted the waterfront, lined with lean-tos thatched with nipah-palm leaves.
Exhibits on oil drilling in the Science and Technology Centre next door are less than gripping; head instead to the Art Gallery upstairs, where the centrepiece is a giant string of Rungus beads, created by Chee Sing Teck, hanging from the ceiling.