Today marks the 15th anniversary of the creation of the Sarawak Heritage Society: SHS was set up and registered on 14th February 2006.

This is the first of a three-part story of SHS. This part focuses on the origins of the Society. Part 2 will dwell on SHS projects in the early years and Part 3 on SHS in the more recent years.

The idea to form a heritage society was initiated by Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, then President of Badan Warisan Malaysia during the National Heritage Award presentation ceremony in Apr 2005. Then Sarawak CM, YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, took up the suggestion and pledged a grant for the formation of the society.

A protem committee was formed, chaired by Datu Aloysius Dris, which had its first meeting on 29th September 2005. A constitution was drafted and the application to register Sarawak Heritage Society with RoS was submitted in October 2005 and approved a few months later.

The first Executive Committee (2006-2008) was formed with Datu Aloysius Dris as the first President and Mike Boon as Vice-President. SHS was created as a membership based organisation, run by members on a voluntary, non-profit basis. There were only 19 registered members at the point of creation, comprising people from different backgrounds – conservators, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, lawyers, etc.

From the beginning, the Society’s purpose was clearly stated: “As a non-governmental organisation, SHS focuses on promoting conservation and preservation of buildings, sites and monuments through publications, organising conferences, workshops, meetings, discussions, and initiating and encouraging restoration projects. SHS hopes to cooperate with relevant authorities or organisations on conservation and preservation related issues.”

From the very beginning, SHS worked closely with PAMSC (Sarawak Chapter of the Malaysian Institute Architects) on various projects. SHS also benefited greatly from the support of the Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism (MUDT) as well as encouragement and guidance of Badan Warisan Malaysia and the Penang Heritage Trust.

The SHS logo came about through a logo design competition that SHS organized in 2006. A UNIMAS student, Miss Chong Thing Hoong, won the RM500 prize.

On 28th Feb 2007, SHS had its formal launch, officiated by then Chief Minister of Sarawak, YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud at the Old Courthouse. Present was also the Minister of MUDT, Dato Seri Wong Soon Koh.

The launch also included an exhibition of the new Kuching Heritage Trail, developed in partnership with PAMSC. A charming video “Kuching Past” was screened and also presented to guests as a souvenir VCD.

Taking the closing lines of one of the keynote speakers in the SHS launch event in 2007: “The world is moving so fast and the majority of people are rushing into the 21st century forgetting their roots. It should be the other way round. We should appreciate our roots, our culture, and our heritage, keeping that as a foundation for us to build our future. We all have the responsibility to preserve these heritage sites for future generations.”

In Part 2, we will touch on some projects of SHS’s early years.

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