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Dato' Adi bin Haji Taha

3 August 1951 – 4 February 2012

Appreciation by
Peter Bellwood

Adi bin Haji Taha was an engaging and wonderful person who worked me over many years as a graduate student and colleague. He commenced his archaeological career after finishing his BA Honours degree in Anthropology and Sociology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1975, when he joined the National Museum of Malaysia (Muzium Negara) as Curator of Archaeology. He came to ANU in 1978 to undertake his Masters degree, writing his thesis on his excavations in the rock shelter of Gua Cha in Kelantan.

Adi then returned to Kuala Lumpur to become Director of the Antiquity Division in the National Museum, before returning to ANU to undertake his PhD (1993-2000). This was based on his further excavations in two Kelantan rock shelters, Gua Peraling and Gua Bukit Chawas. From 2002 onwards, Adi served as Director General of Museums and Antiquities in Kuala Lumpur, a post from which he eventually retired in 2005. At the time of his death he was a Principal Fellow in Universiti Malaysia Kelantan in Kota Bharu.

I joined Adi briefly for his excavations in Kelantan and was always impressed with his popularity with his museum staff and his deep knowledge of his own Malay culture. He was also assiduous in his desire to finish research projects and see them to publication, including his own graduate theses. He made major contributions to the archaeology of the Hoabinhian and Neolithic phases in Peninsular Malaysia, and also to the understanding of more recent cultures.

From 2000 to 2004, Adi served as President of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, of which I was then Secretary-General. In 1998, we organised together the very successful Melaka Congress of that association, attended by over 225 presenters from 35 countries.

Adi received several awards during his lifetime, culminating with the award of the title Johan Mangku Negara by His Royal Highness the King of Malaysia in 2005. Adi also received three Dato' titles from the states of Melaka, Kelantan and Kedah.

Adi died on 4 February 2012, leaving behind wife Aminah, daughters Adrina, Adriyati, Adzwanee and Adzimah, and sons Ahmad Fadzli and Aufi Adawi. His last email to me was dated 1 January 2012, and in it he asked about fieldwork and publications, and also about grandchildren. I sent Adi some publications, but am not sure if he had time to read them. He probably beat me in the friendly competition over numbers of grandchildren!

Appreciation by
Janet Tee Siew Mooi

Dato' Adi bin Haji Taha
Dato' Adi bin Haji Taha, taken by Janet Tee Siew Mooi

Former Director General of the Department of Museums in Malaysia (Jabatan Muzium Negara Malaysia), Dato' Dr Adi Taha, 60, died after a long battle from cancer at his house in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, on 4 February 2012. Born on August 3, 1951, in Kodiang, Kedah, Dr Adi leaves his wife Wan Aminah Wan Yusof and six children.

Dato' Dr Adi joined Muzium Negara as a Curator of Archaeology in 1975 after graduating from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology. In 1981 he enrolled at the Australian National University in Canberra for his Masters degree, and later obtained his Doctor of Philosophy from the same university in 2001.

During his tenure with the Department of Museums, Dato' Dr Adi held several positions before being promoted to the position of Director General in 2002, a position he held until his mandatory retirement in 2007. Dato' Dr Adi pioneered museum work and research on prehistoric human artifacts, the Bujang Valley civilisation, the establishment of new museums in Malaysia, and several blockbuster exhibitions. He was also very enthusiastic over international collaboration and the Department of Museums was involved in several ASEAN museum projects during his tenure as Director General. Dato' Dr Adi was very supportive for the establishment of the Museum Volunteers programme at Muzium Negara in 2006, which eventually led to the official launch of 25 volunteers on 19 April 2007.

During his tenure with the Muzium Negara, Dato' Dr Adi attended many ICOM general conferences and assemblies, and presented papers at international seminars and workshops abroad and locally, the last being the Shanghai ICOM2010. Among his social and professional involvements he served as Vice President of the Association of Malaysian Archaeologists (1997), President of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association (2002-2004), President of the Museums Association of Malaysia (2002-2009), and President of ICOM Malaysia (2002 - 2010).

After his retirement from the National Museum, Dato' Dr Adi's zeal and passion did not falter. He joined Universiti Malaysia Kelantan as a Principal Fellow in the Faculty of Creative Technology and Heritage and continued to contribute to the fields of museology, history and culture. His expertise on museums and history was often sought by museum curators, academics and other individuals. Dato' Dr Adi also wrote several books and articles on the prehistory of Malaysia (see previous appreciation by Peter Bellwood for a list of the most significant).

Malaysia will surely miss an eminent and affable leader in Dato' Dr Adi Taha. R.I.P.

Appreciation by
Ryan Rabett

I met Adi only a couple of times in the late 1990s but have a strong recollection of eating lunch with him at the Muzium Negara, in Kuala Lumpur. At that time I was still in the early stages of collecting data for my PhD. Adi clearly saw that and was particularly positive and encouraging to a very inexperienced foreign research student! On that occasion he paved the way for me to spend several days working on the Museum's collections; a great sign of his generosity and openness. During the second half of the 1980s Adi was in the vanguard of a resurgent national interest in archaeology in Malaysia. His drive and contributions to the discipline have been central to its on-going success there in the years since. Although he will be greatly missed by all who knew him, his high standing among those who have dedicated themselves to exploring Malaysia's past will continue long into the future.

Appreciation by
Jane Allen

Adi was one of my favorite archaeologists anywhere. He was always enthusiastic, open, full of interesting ideas, and happy to share and listen to others' ideas. His work was excellent, and on top of everything else he was always fun to be around. I will truly miss him - everyone who knew him will miss him.