After the inaugural term of 2006-2008 under President Datu Aloysius Dris, SHS’ second, third and fourth Presidents were Mike Boon (2008-2010), Joseph Ingai Gasing (2010-2012) and Hong Boon Kheng (2012-2014) respectively. Each had a different leadership style but a common vision to protect and preserve Sarawak’s unique heritage.In this second part, we look briefly at some key projects undertaken during that period.

2008-2009: Old Markets on Gambier Street. SHS lobbied the government to try to save the market structures. Structural integrity assessment and a detailed conservation project report were submitted, but disappointingly our efforts were unsuccessful. The market buildings were all demolished around July 2009. Prior to everything coming down, SHS members managed to carry out measured drawings and took many photographs.

The old markets, Jln Gambier, Kuching

2009-2011: “Reminisicing Forgotten Treasures… Siniawan“, a SHS-led community engagement project, included heritage mapping, documentation of the story of Siniawan, measured drawings and photographs. This project had significant coverage in the news media, and has arguably been a  catalyst to highlighting the potential of Siniawan and its transformation into a popular visitor spot for both tourists and locals.

A house in the old bazaar, Siniawan

Upon learning that Kuching’s 128-year Old Prison building was slated for demolition, SHS expressed strong concerns and managed to do some measured drawings prior to the actual demolition around May 2011.

The old prison building, Kuching, a the time of its demolition

2013-2015: the government funded restoration at Fort Alice, Sri Aman, was led by architects John Ting and Mike Boon. “Reminiscing Forgotten Treasures… Simanggang“, a SHS led community engagement project, accompanied the restoration project.

Demonstration of traditional craftsmanship to students, SHS Fort Alice community engagement project (SHS photo, Aug. 2013)

In addition to the above projects, SHS ran a sizeable number of talks (some under the Sarawakiana umbrella of Pustaka Negeri Sarawak), heritage walks, site visits and outreach sessions to grassroots organisations, school and tertiary students. Also worth mentioning are the hosting, in 2008, of a 2 weeks University Malaya-National University Singapore Joint Studio (which produced a valuable study report on old Kuching); a  photo competition based on the Heritage Trail (May 2009);  three art exhibitions (Hoan Kee Huang in 2012, Chin Kee in 2013 and Narong Daun in 2014). SHS also produced a series of richly informative Newsletters between 2008 and 2012, and expressed concerns over threatened heritage assets via public statements and press releases.

SHS talk by guest speaker Laurence Loh, prominent Malaysian conservation architect, in Apr. 2009.

Importantly, too, SHS engaged significantly with Sarawak government agencies with concrete proposals on the institutional and legislative frameworks aimed at strengthening public management of heritage, in particular in the 2007-2009 period. SHS was represented in a short lived Sarawak Heritage Committee set up by the Government in 2007.

Dickens’ words “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” could be used to describe this phase of SHS history. The early years of 2008-2014 saw the completion of some meaningful conservation projects that gave members a little well-deserved satisfaction but, at the same time, it was a deeply disappointing period in that SHS and the community were not able to prevent some of Kuching’s priceless built heritage from being destroyed and in that little progress could be observed in the overall public management of Sarawak’s heritage.

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