Conservation of historic cores within George Town, Butterworth, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru will take another step forward with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Think City and AusHeritage (ausheritage.org.au) here recently.
Under the agreement, Think City and AusHeritage will plan joint activities such as conferences, seminars, workshops and exhibitions to facilitate the protection, preservation, promotion, interpretation, care, and management of change relating to Malaysia's cultural heritage.
In terms of skills development, both parties will encourage the exchange of expertise through joint activities in research and skills development related to the conservation and activation of cultural heritage. Exchange programmes including internships and visiting research fellows will be encouraged.
Other areas of cooperation include the sharing of knowledge on best practices for the management of museum and gallery collections, and the conservation and revitalisation of heritage assets. Both parties will take part in heritage conservation capacity building in both the private and public sectors through visits, exchanges, and pilot projects, as well as through common technical publications.
There would also be opportunities for members to undertake cultural heritage projects and other developmental activities on either a grant funded, commercial engagement, or cooperative basis.
Established by the Australian government in 1996, AusHeritage is a network of Australian cultural heritage management organisations that aims to facilitate the engagement of practitioners and organisations for the Australian heritage industry in the overseas arena. Its members work internationally on a grant funded, commercial or cooperative basis.
AusHeritage is the only nationally based, multi-disciplinary cultural heritage organisation in Australia, with members coming from a variety of disciplines that include materials conservators, conservation architects and planners, academics, urban planners, environmental lawyers, cultural tourism planners and heritage managers.
AusHeritage has been involved in George Town as far back as 2010, when the Penang Heritage Trust invited them to work on conservation strategies for George Town, which received recognition from UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2008. The Penang Heritage Trust is an NGO that is keen to promote good conservation of the historic George Town core and buffer zones.
Back then, several AusHeritage members with relevant conservation and heritage management skills and experience came to Penang to present a series of heritage-related presentations and to discuss with the local World Heritage Office unit the appropriate means and skills to manage their site.
In Sept 2010, AusHeritage, in association with Bruce Pettman and Mary Knaggs from the New South Wales' Government Architect's Office, undertook a consultancy project to restore and enhance the buildings and facilities at the Masjid Kapitan Keling in George Town. Since then, AusHeritage has conducted various forums and workshops in collaboration with the George Town World Heritage Incorporated, Penang Heritage Trust, Penang state government, Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang, Penang Global Tourism, and Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia.
Think City was represented by its chairman Dato' Anwar Fazal, while Vinod Daniel signed on behalf of AusHeritage in his capacity as chairman.
The signing of the memorandum caps a fruitful four-day mission by AusHeritage to Malaysia. The AusHeritage delegation consisting of Daniel, Roger Beeston (deputy chairman), David Huxtable (board member), Barrie Cooper(member), Graham Ormsby (treasurer), and Robyn Riddett (secretary) met museum officials, the George Town World Heritage Incorporated, the Penang Heritage Trust, as well as other stakeholders in conservation.