Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
GEORGETOWN -- The development of Georgetown has attracted many tourists flocking here to scan the place. However, the increased new openings of shop lots have given the town a new lease of life in addition to its tonnes of heritage buildings.
By chance Wu Han Ren, Ru Zhi Xing and Lee Wu Xin talked about the town and what was missing from it. That brought 14 Living Story back to life, to showcase the day-to-day living of Old Georgetown.
Since Ru and Lee have been working in Shanghai, China, they have to travel to various places regularly and have visited the fabled Xin Tian Di, a place that holds the historical and cultural legacies of the Chinese metropolis. The enclave also gave the duo an idea that Penang could actually become some place like that.
"Along the road in many tourist attractions in other countries, we would see stalls selling local delicacies and souvenirs which make the place all the more vibrant."
"However, tourists visiting Penang will only be greeted by rows of listless shophouses, warehouses and empty residences, many of which are uninhabited and locked."
It was August 2009 when Wu, Ru and Lee decided to set up a living museum in town. They had looked at many different locations and finally decided on the shophouse beside Seh Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi on Armenian Street.
"The tenancy contract of the house was about to expire when we contacted the owner. We picked the house because it exuded the feelings of an old building.
"It has been found that the house could have been built in the 1850s and is at least 150 years old today!"
Wu said the house was formerly used to accommodate foreign workers. Despite its location in the heart of Old Georgetown, the house has never been put to proper use.
Since the original house was quite shabby, they requested the owner to do some renovation and they later tore down the room partitions to make the old house more spacious.
The living museum is divided into three parts where the front part of ground floor is used for the sale of souvenirs, day-to-day items and handcrafts. The rear part of the house has been specifically designed for the display of artistic exhibits.
Since old houses in Penang were designed largely in Chinese style and in particular Shanghainese style, many Shanghainese memorabilia could still be found in these houses.
Wu hopes to recreate the first floor of the house into a museum showcasing the day-to-day living of Old Penang by next year so that tourists could get a better understanding of life in Old Penang.
In order to promote reuse and recycling, all the furniture inside the house have either been donated by people or picked up by themselves.
Wu admitted that local tourists are not too keen to buy the souvenirs and handicrafts as they are more interested in the furnishings and designs of the building. On the contrary, foreigners are more avid in buying the souvenirs.
"I hope more people will harness the advantages of Georgetown to open more unique shops to promote the local cultural heritage at the same time luring more tourists here."