New life for old pictures

A visitor taking a photo of an image depicting the meticulous restoration work.

BOON San Tong Khoo Kongsi’s Restoration Achievement Exhibition themed ‘Under the Conservation’ is now on at Hall 4 of Jetty 35 in Weld Quay, Penang.

It documents the meticulous work done to restore the 141-year-old clan house’s traditional wood panel paintings to their former glory.

The year-long project was a collaboration between the Bureau of Cultural Heritage under Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture and George Town World Heritage Incorporated.

Both parties earlier signed a memorandum of understanding for an exchange of ideas.

Bureau director Sze Guo Long said that after their first visit to Penang in 2017, they chose Boon San Tong Khoo Kongsi, a heritage building in Victoria Street within George Town’s Unesco World Heritage site.

Images of some of the restored panel paintings on display at the exhibition.Images of some of the restored panel paintings on display at the exhibition.

“We realised that we needed to preserve the panel paintings’ historical value. The restoration involved cleaning, reinforcing, filling and colouring.

“We used materials that were as close to the original as possible. The project also allowed us to train locals on restoration work,” he said during the exhibition’s opening ceremony on Saturday.

Work, which culminated only last month, also involved experts from National Taiwan University of Arts and Tainan National University of the Arts.

The team spent countless hours investigating the damage to the paintings as well as doing detailed analysis and research on their origins.

After cracks and holes were repaired, acrylic pigments were used to retouch the paintings which date from the late 19th century and depict the life and customs of Chinese immigrants in Penang.

Also at the opening ceremony were Penang Legislative Assembly speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang and Pengkalan Kota assemblyman Daniel Gooi.

This is the second major heritage restoration project done in George Town, following the restoration of a 119-year-old tapestry depicting the Eight Immortals and Nine Emperor Gods belonging to Tow Boh Keong Temple in Jalan Cheong Fatt Tze.

The exhibition continues until Sept 15 and is open for viewing from 10am to 6pm daily.

Entrance is free. A guided tour is available.
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