oral historyAs part of our mission to safeguard heritage in George Town, we recognise the need to increase our historical resources and references, and improve how we document local history and heritage. Oral histories are a vital component in our on-going documentation efforts and serve to supplement existing knowledge on social histories for greater public awareness.

Over the years, various efforts involving the collection of oral histories have taken place in Penang, mostly by individual institutions, organisations, journalists, historians, researchers and other interested parties. These sporadic efforts are of uneven quality due to the lack of a standard set of oral history guidelines and procedures. Furthermore, there is no established archival system for oral histories in Penang with retrieval capacities, to which the public have access.

Through our Oral History Documentation Project, we hope to improve the process of research and recording history, and train future documenters. We also aim to build the resources we offer to the public through our Resource Centre and online archive of historical data such as old maps, photographs and postcard images; and which will soon store oral histories alongside the visual archival materials.

With the help of the Oral History Centre of the National Archives of Singapore, we conducted some preliminary training earlier this year, have surveyed various projects and their methodologies, and are setting up a framework for future documentation practice. We are now beginning the collection of oral histories for a pilot project focusing on memories of residents of Chulia Street during the post-war period of 1945-1970.

Our project objectives:
Capacity development for contributors to the field of oral history collection
To begin exploring a baseline standard for oral history documentation in Penang
Knowledge enrichment and enhancement of sense of identity through the collection of personal and community histories

oral history cheritaThe stories of Chulia Street
This year, as we work on setting a framework for collecting oral histories, our oral history project seeks to record the recollections of residents of one of the historical main streets of George Town, and still one of the busiest streets in the city today, where some of its earliest trades are still in practice: Chulia Street.

Follow the project's progress on our project blog, written by our Project Coordinator, Kuah Li Feng.

Precursor to the project
For the past 2 years, GTWHI funded a specially curated event called "The Living Museum" as part of the programme of George Town Festival, which involved the presentation of stories by real residents of George Town in a public event. By attempting to document oral histories, we aim to make such stories available as historical records of how life used to be in George Town.

The Living Museum 2012 brought visitors into the working realms of 6 long term residents of the inner city. View the commemorative booklet that introduces you to the Coffin Shop owner, the maker of paper oblations, the shoemaker, the man who keeps the projection running at the old Odeon Cinema, the ladies of Vincent Hairdressing Salon, and a textile merchant of Chulia Street.

Living Museum 2012 - 1 - tumb Living Museum 2012 - 2 - tumb Living Museum 2012 - 3 - tumb Living Museum 2012 - 4 - tumb
Cover Introduction Hock Lean Seng, the
Coffin Shop
Ah Ban Paper Oblation
Living Museum 2012 - 5 - tumb Living Museum 2012 - 6 - tumb Living Museum 2012 - 7 - tumb Living Museum 2012 - 8 - tumb
Odeon Cinema Vincent Hairdressing
Fazal Mohammed Bros Hong Kong Shoe Shop

If you want to know more about our projects at GTWHI, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (04) 261 6606.


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