Taiping’s Old Museum House

About 40 heritage lovers joined in the Taiping Heritage Society’s visit to the Old House Museum, located at Market Square recently. The facility is along Jalan Taming Sari near the old Taiping wet market, where the town’s iconic clock tower stands.

The museum, the latest tourist and history buff attraction in town, was ‘adapted’ in 2013 into a 130-year-old three-storey heritage shophouse belonging to the late Lim Zi You. The house-museum opened its doors during Chinese New Year this year. It records and recollects the history of the Lim family dynasty after their move to Malaya from China over a century ago. Lim started business making charcoal stoves and later alcoholic drinks for the immigrant population in old Taiping.

Former Perak Heritage Society president, Law Siak Hong, who was in the group, said that the museum is Taiping’s pride. “It’s a unique icon, as old stuff from the original owner are still kept intact in the house”, he said.

The house has all the trimmings of a bygone era like turn-of-the-century furniture and fittings, a large dining room, ancestral hall, sitting area, large bedrooms with a Qing dynasty bed and old toilet baths, all built from old construction materials, joints, techniques and carved wood. Many impressive antiques and rare objects are displayed for the appreciation of  keen history enthusiasts.

Taiping Heritage Society’s honorary secretary, P. Kesavan, said that there is an urgent need for the preservation and protection of old buildings and shophouses in Taiping. “I believe Taiping’s heritage status is merely a declaration, which has no protection status. What is really needed is to gazette the old parts of the town to be totally protected under the law, like is done in Penang and Malacca.”

Kesavan added that there had to be a permanent solution to protecting Taiping’s heritage, which was fast disappearing, and a proper mechanism to stop the cutting of old trees in the town, which were symbiotic with its heritage feel.

The house museum’s chief caretaker, Tan Kok Siew or Kapitan, as he is fondly called, said that most of the original fittings and designs are well preserved and he took the liberty of adding his own collection of antiques and artifacts for display.

“By housing a museum in this old building, I can help to preserve the antiquity of the entire structure and at the same time open it for public viewing to inculcate a passion for saving things of the past. These buildings have great value for everyone to appreciate,” he said.

Tan hoped the museum would encourage the conservation of heritage buildings and icons in Taiping and stop them from being destroyed forever.

Nirmal Ariyapala

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