BADAN Warisan Malaysia is hosting Warisan Kertas, an exhibition and sale of maps, prints, books and travel ephemera collected by Johan Nicholson.
”I am pleased to cooperate with Badan Warisan on this exhibition of material primarily about Malaya, including Singapore, though there are also some items on the Netherlands East Indies, Siam and South-East Asia generally,” said Nicholson.
Nicholson came to Kuala Lumpur to work in 1968, carrying with him a childhood obsession with collecting things.
On his retirement, he felt the need to keep busy and decided to turn his hobby into a business.
“The material I have collected is not that old,” Nicholson said, “partly because old material is so expensive, but also because I find it difficult to ‘touch’ such old material, if you understand what I mean.”
What are his criteria for collecting?
“Any item I bought almost always had to be cheap,” he said. “It had to be interesting and somehow had to connect the present to the past better than the way dry academic books do. You can judge for yourself if I was successful!
“As it is a collection mainly about Malaya, I hope it sheds light into some little known corners, which are part of Malaysia’s heritage.”
One item on display which he believes is very rare is Sketches of Kuala Lumpur by R.D. Jackson, which consists of 10 ink drawings from the 1910s.
“I was privileged that the distinguished historian of Malaya and Malaysia, John Gullick, agreed to write notes on the drawings.
“1 have taken photos of the same scenes, where possible, to show the contrasts.”
The map material dates from the 1890s (including a map of Malaya whose spelling looks decidedly odd) up to the 1980s – with a large map of the Proposed Trans Asia Highway.
There are delightful engravings of Borneo, made from the sketches of Midshipman Marryat dated 1848, some of the earliest sketches of Kuching, Brunei and Kinabalu Bay.
Books vary from Malay for Mems (nostalgic indeed!) and an almost mint condition 1946 Gardening in Malaya, to the Raub Town Council’s Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Souvenir and a Penang Information Guide of December 1937 which was originally given away free to tourists.
The fascinating travel ephemera includes a pamphlet from 1968 advertising Langkawi, which reveals the total number of hotel rooms on the island was 29 – yes, 29!
Warisan Kertas: Exhibition and Sale of Maps, Prints, Books and Travel Ephemera illustrating the history of Malaya, North Borneo and Malaysia, 1890s -1970s runs until June 27.
Badan Warisan Malaysia is loacted at No. 2 Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur. Exhibition hours are 10am to 5.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays); closed on Sundays and public holidays.