On 15th June 2019, Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA) together with Friends of Sarawak Museum (FoSM) hosted a free talk by a historian, Jennifer Morris, on the important role that the Ibans of Sarawak played in the history of Science. Jennifer is a historian specialising in the history of museums and science in colonial South-East Asia (SEA). She is currently completing the final stages of her PhD in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore. Her doctoral research focuses on the history of the Sarawak Museum during the Brooke Era.
Traditionally, the Ibans appear in the histories of the Brooke state as mainly headhunters and warrior. Therefore, it came as a surprise for many to learn that a network of Iban people began spreading across South-East Asia and beyond working as professional scientific collectors of animal and plants in the late 1800s.
The talk was attended by some 30 individuals across various professional fields who were keen to learn more about the history of the Ibans in the field of sciences. Stories of some of these remarkable men and their contributions to global scientific enquiry were shared with the most prominent figure being Lajang Gaddi Sang, a collector who originated from Saribas who made his name in Thailand. Lajang was part of a voyage that went to the USA in 1937 to transport animals and specimens to the National Museum. Other notable figures were Ketit, Sajai and Bulang, to name a few.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in organising the event and to everyone who attended as well. Last but not least, a very special thank you to Jennifer Morris for sharing her knowledge and experience with us.