THE Sitiawan Settlement Museum, an old double-storey building in front of SMK Methodist (ACS) Sitiawan, is easily overlooked if not for its name written in bold red letters.
Founded in 2003, the museum itself is a part of history - having been built as a parsonage in 1935 to house Christian missionaries who were instrumental in pioneering the settlement.
The parsonage was also a place for settlers to gather since the missionaries were often made district superintendents and handled various government affairs.
They acted as administrative officers, financial clerks and even land officers.
As soon as one steps into the museum, they will come across a few wells, which according to a plaque, had been dug up to commemorate the first well in Kampung Koh created by missionary Dr William G. Shellabear.
The original well was said to have supplied safe drinking water to over 2,000 early settlers for close to 60 years until the 1960s, never drying up even during droughts.
It was said that womenfolk would wake up early each morning to draw water from the well and carried them in tins across their shoulders to sell to residents.
An Ipoh Christian missionary Reverend W.E. Horley had described that the water as ‘living water’ which fed and quenched thirsty souls.
Upon entering the museum, one is greeted by walls lined with simple wood framed photographs relating the history of the Foochow people in China who initial settled in Sibu, Sarawak, and later in Sitiawan.
There is also an antique collection from across the century, which is guaranteed to dazzle and provide glimpses on how technology has affected daily life.
Audio recording devices, vintage television, cameras, and even irons are on display at the front portion on the ground floor while the back room is a showcase of a manual cement mixer and the tins used for carrying water back in the old days.
The exhibits on the first floor will transport visitors back to the past and learn about how settlers had lived and worked, and also of the historical tools of the different eras.
One can get a peek into the simple life of the Foochow settlers in the first room on the left where there is a four-post metal bed complete with small wooden pillows, traditional clothes worn at the time and even old trunks and cupboards.
The next room features various tools referring to the major economic shift from the initial failed rice production to rubber, which has fuelled the town’s rapid growth up to today.
There are also vintage cash register machines complete with colourful numbers and an array of levers, buttons and even a handcrank.
Further down in the back room, visitors are able to see an editor’s desk and various printing machines, including Chinese
typesetters, which show the complexity in publishing newspapers or magazines in pre-computer days.
In the last room, two organs and a vintage microphone are showcased amidst a cupboard containing various Bible translations.
The Pioneer Methodist Church next to the museum had used the organs during their service, as seen in two photographs displayed above them.
The museum may not be a sprawling complex filled with audio-visual guides or interactive graphics but within it, lies the soul of the Foochow people and bears testimony to their struggles, achievements and contributions to our nation.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, who visited the museum recently, had announced an allocation of RM50,000 for various restoration works to be carried out to the museum.
“The museum is an important cultural and historical heritage, not only to the Foochow community who settled here but also to each and every Malaysian,” he said.
The museum is located along Jalan Lin Chen Mei in Kampung Koh, Sitiawan.
Those wanting to visit can call 05-6920612 during office hours to make an appointment.