Penang seeks old building plans, photos of heritage sites

George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) general manager Ang Ming Chee (second from left) wants to collect building plans or other drawings of heritage buildings to aid in restoration efforts.

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang government agency is looking for old building plans or architectural drawings for 5,000-odd buildings in the George Town World Heritage Site to be kept for safekeeping and research.

George Town World Heritage Site Incorporated (GTWHI) general manager Ang Ming Chee said it would prepare a repository to keep all the blueprints of these buildings as it would prove to be useful in restoration of heritage buildings.

She also said a suggestion by a building conservator to collect old photos of building facades was a good idea if the building plans were nowhere to be found.

“We will take them in, digitise it and keep them for future restoration works. The only issue is that not all owners back in the day could afford to have building plans drawn up.

“But we also know some owners of these heritage buildings have these precious building plans in their possession,” she said today.

With 5,000 heritage buildings in George Town, only a handful of building plans are in GTWHI’s possession, with most being as a result of government revenue surveys, Ang said at the closing of the four-day International Conference on Managing Urban Cultural Heritage (MUCH) 2018, organised by Unesco and GTWHI.

Earlier, at the conference, heritage conservator Tan Chin Ling had requested for the Penang government to start collecting building plans for a lack of a one-stop centre to do so.

He said GTWHI ought to go door-to-door in asking for these building plans.

“Even old family photos showing the facade of the building is good enough when a formal building plan is not there. This can be compiled and used as a point of reference to conserve buildings,” Tan said.

Unesco’s cultural unit head Moe Chiba.

Meanwhile, Unesco’s Moe Chiba said information shared through this conference was invaluable to all those taking care of their heritage sites, as they learnt from the best practices of their partners from all over the world.

Chiba, who is Unesco’s cultural unit head in Jakarta, said while it was difficult for Unesco to mind all heritage sites, the onus was on the local community and other stakeholders to take a serious interest in maintaining their intangible heritage.

She said while Unesco gave general guidelines on managing heritage sites, nothing beats the local know-how in keeping their heritage preserved, be it in buildings or culture.

Today marked the end of the four-day MUCH conference, where 130 people from 15 countries gathered. Some 40 speakers from various heritage sites in the world shared their experiences in taking care of their heritage sites.

The underlying theme of the conference was to tackle challenges and opportunities in managing cultural heritage sites at urban centres.