Oldest Surviving Letterpress Museum Gets Shot in the Arm from Yayasan Sime Darby

Critical funding totalling RM3.11 million will fully cover renovation works to preserve The Royal Press (TRP).

Kuala Lumpur, 10 July 2015 - Amidst the rows of shoplots within the historic Jonker Street enclave in Malacca lies a hidden gem. The 76-year old letterpress museum called The Royal Press (TRP), which has seen better days, used to be a thriving printing business run for more than seven decades by the Ee family.

Managed by Ee Joo Guat, the 84-year old doyenne of the family, Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) was approached by her nephew Ee Soon Wei who wanted to embark on a mission to save the living heritage of the age-old printing business into a living letterpress museum.

In 2014, YSD announced funding of RM1.76 million for TRP and one of the key areas of funding TRP was a dilapidation study on the structure of the old building and refurbishment works.

The onset of the project revealed the alarming state of the building which was in worse condition than anticipated with water seeping through the walls, damaging refurbishments works on the antique murals. Special artisans from China will have to be brought in to work on them.

Checks also revealed the beams supporting the roof to be infested with termites, cracked terracotta floor tiles, brittle roof tiles and sagging timber floors on the upper level of the building.

It was then that Soon Wei, after failing to garner financial support from other sources, once again, approached YSD for additional funding of RM1.35 million to help restore the core structure of the building before proceeding with other renovation works. In total, TRP has received RM3.11 million in funding from YSD to resuscitate and resurrect the museum.

Due to the additional renovation works, the opening of the museum which had earlier been scheduled to re-open had to be deferred.

”TRP is our first pilot project on heritage preservation and it would be a monumental disaster to let the last living letterpress museum disappear right before our eyes.

“Though we had already committed a substantial amount for the project, YSD was determined to do everything possible to save this piece of letterpress printing history for the younger generation who would have no inkling how it all started. During this fast moving digital age, we hope they can learn to appreciate what our forefathers went through in the yesteryears before technology took over everything,” said Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of Yayasan Sime Darby.

“The building was originally a Dutch colonial house and is more than 100-years old and is unlike any other museum here in Malaysia. Once you step inside, you will marvel at the range of printing machines, an Original Glockner-Mercedes dating back to 1956, and a rare Linotype Model 78 made in 1961, an intricate line-casting machine that makes casted rows of letter types by melting lead metal. It would be a waste if we do not work hard to save this part of history which is very much a part of the existence of our culture and national identity,” he added.

Meanwhile, Soon Wei, who has travelled as far as Germany to learn about the history of the polyglot letterpress printing industry said saving the printing press would not have been possible without YSD’s funding.

“This museum is a national legacy from 76 years ago and as one of the fourth generation of my family’s printing lineage, I feel obligated to save this historical gem to keep living in an evolving modern world. I would never have been able to pull this off without the generous support of YSD and for that TRP is eternally grateful for the additional funding.”

“I hope that once the museum is ready for visitors, it will not only be a place for people to go back in time but also serve as a reminder of our heritage and a hub for future creative artistes,” Soon Wei added.

Arts and Culture, one of the pillars of Yayasan Sime Darby’s philanthropy supports the development of a vibrant arts community in Malaysia’s multi-cultural society which includes projects and activities in the performing arts and traditional heritage preservation. YSD sponsors initiatives that encourage the arts and culture, develop the demand for the arts whilst empowering the industry with knowledge and skills that contribute to the richness of a cultural heritage that is uniquely Malaysia, and promote the local arts and artistes towards achieving international recognition.

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Last Updated:
23 Nov 2017
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