Scholarly article on topic 'Interdependency of Cultural Heritage Assets in the Old Quarter, Melaka Heritage City'

Interdependency of Cultural Heritage Assets in the Old Quarter, Melaka Heritage City Academic research paper on "History and archaeology"

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{"Cultural heritage asset" / "heritage city" / "tangible and intangible cultural asset" / "cultural mapping"}

Abstract of research paper on History and archaeology, author of scientific article — Raja Norashekin Raja Othman, Amran Hamzah

Abstract This paper identifies relationships between people, place, and history which establish cultural assets. It consists of tangible and intangible elements, both of which need to be developed in parallel to each other due to their robust relationship and great interdependency. The study was carried out using the Cultural Resource Framework which is the process of identifying and documenting cultural heritage resources by creating a database. This approach is relevant for application in the study area and also in other complex urban historic sites for purposes of safeguarding cultural heritage assets.

Academic research paper on topic "Interdependency of Cultural Heritage Assets in the Old Quarter, Melaka Heritage City"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 105 (2013) 577 - 588

AicE-Bs2013 London Asia Pacific International Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies University of Westminster, London, UK, 4-6 September 2013 "From Research to Practice"

Interdependency of Cultural Heritage Assets in the Old Quarter, Melaka Heritage City

Raja Norashekin Raja Othman*, Amran Hamzah

Faculty of Built Environment

_Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai 81300, Malaysia_


This paper identifies relationships between people, place, and history which establish cultural assets. It consists of tangible and intangible elements, both of which need to be developed in parallel to each other due to their robust relationship and great interdependency. The study was carried out using the Cultural Resource Framework which is the process of identifying and documenting cultural heritage resources by creating a database. This approach is relevant for application in the study area and also in other complex urban historic sites for purposes of safeguarding cultural heritage assets.

© 2013TheAuthors. Published by ElsevierLtd.

Selectionandpeer-reviewunderresponsibilityofCentreforEnvironment-Behaviour Studies (cE-Bs),FacultyofArchitecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.

Keywords: Cultural heritage asset; heritage city; tangible and intangible cultural asset; cultural mapping

1. Introduction

The concept of cultural heritage invariably differs from one context to another. In a broad sense, cultural heritage is a result of human processes and activities rather than a biophysical product (Aplin, 2002). It will reflect either productive or material activities/ non-material activities or values such as social, religious, artistic, and traditional values. The concept of cultural heritage includes the true cultural modes of today and yesterday. Over the past thirty years, this concept has continued to broaden, and the content has changed considerably. Today, anthropological approaches consider it as a social ensemble of many different, complex and interdependent manifestations. This reflects the diversity of cultural

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +06-012-3302969 E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies (cE-Bs), Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.11.061

manifestations (Bouchenaki, 2003) which do not only comprise of monuments and collections of objects (tangible elements); instead, it also embraces traditions or living expressions inherited from ancestors, passed down to their descendants. It includes social practice, oral traditions, festive and ritual events, performing arts, and also the knowledge and skill to produce traditional crafts (intangible elements) (UNESCO,2010). Today, the 'message' of cultural properties has become more important (Bouchenaki, 2003). It demands the identification of the ethical values, social customs, and beliefs or myths of each cultural resource. The significance of architectural, urban construction, and natural landscape produced through human intervention needs to be connected to the local identity.

In Melaka city, multiculturalism began more than 500 years ago. Recently, new interest in several aspects of its history, culture, architecture, monuments, traditional art, and religious and ritual practice has arisen. Most of these activities culminate in the Old Quarter area. This area is considered symbolic of Melaka's various communities, culture, and history. In recent times however, the emphasis on the preservation of intangible cultural assets (ICA) in this area has started to decrease. Most of the tangible cultural assets (TCA) are deficient in its interpretation of 'a story' of the element while others simply contradict their original functions. Therefore, this research sought to verify the interdependency of cultural heritage assets in urban heritage in order to show that these assets cannot be developed distinctly; they need to move in parallel. The objective of this study, was to identify cultural resources (tangible elements), to ascertain the local community's identity (intangible elements), and also to manage the information in a systematic approach.

In this paper's context, the cultural mapping approach is one of the methods that can be applied to determine the relationship and dependencies between both elements. It is an innovative tool which can be used to understand the cultural assets of the place. This approach has been widely recognized as an effective tool for development and planning purposes

2. Approach and method

The Old Quarter of Melaka city, Malaysia, was chosen as the study area. It is an old town area located in the Historic Residential and Commercial Zone which has been gazetted as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Urban Heritage Site. The study area was chosen because of its unique multiculturalism developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchange.

Prior to data collection, the Cultural Mapping approach was employed. It is a systematic tool used to identify and document local cultural assets (Greg Baeker, 2010; Huron's Council, 2012). It is an approach which employs the processes of collecting, analysing, and synthesizing information in order to describe and visualize the cultural resources (Cultural mapping toolkit, 2010). It is essentially used to create a central database where basic data for each of the cultural resource, such as location, name of the element, types of cultural resource, and geographic reference points or GPS coordinates are identified and then plotted on a map using GIS technology.

The current research used a similar framework outlined in the Canadian Framework for Culture Statistics, 2008. The Cultural Resource Framework (CRF) is a tool to identify and classify cultural resources. It is an approach which identifies the cultural resource of the study area and determines the relationship between each element. The framework was used to ensure that all the data and information was included in the resulting map. Two methods of the survey were used to study these resources: firstly, observation of the study area to identify cultural resources, and secondly, interviewing local communities to identify the local identity and the story of the area. Secondary data was also used to support the information.

There are two kinds of cultural resources i.e. Tangible Cultural Heritage Assets (TCHA) and Intangible Cultural Heritage Assets (ICHA) as defined in Figure 1.


Tangible Culture Heritage Asset

Resource Mapping of the Physical Culture Elements

Intangible Culture Heritage Asset

Community Identity Mapping

Cultural Heritage Natural


Space and Facilities Festival and Events Creative Culture Industries

Community Cultural Organizations Creative Culture Occupation

Fig. 1. Cultural resource framework

TCHA is collated through the identification and recording of physical (or tangible) cultural resources. This resource mapping is an indispensable planning tool as it provides a strong knowledge base of local cultural assets. It can also generate more accurate information on local culture for the information of residents and visitors. ICHA is collated through the exploration, recording, and mapping of the community's identity. It is used to explore intangible cultural resources such as the unique history, values, traditions, and stories that coalesce to define a community's identity and sense of place. Those cultural resources are including cultural heritage (living history sites, historic corridors, heritage districts, buildings, cemeteries) and natural heritage (river). It divides resources into a set number of main categories with each main category dividing into multiple sub-categories. There is a broad set of assets in the field which, by general consensus, can be included as cultural resources for mapping purposes. In the mapping process, Geographic Information System (GIS) was used as a tool and main platform. The information on cultural resource was spatially mapped to show its distribution. Consequently, the relationship between the cultural resource and the community identity was analysed. As a side note, planning issues and gaps can also be identified using this method.

This approach is a good research method and gives good design feedback to shape the research agenda. It is a relevant approach for practice in the study area as well as other complex urban historic sites to safeguard cultural heritage assets.

3. Results and discussion

As the study area was developed more than 500 years ago, it is an outstanding example of historic colonial towns on the Straits of Malacca which exhibit the succession of historical and cultural impacts from its former function as a trading port. This area was the most important residential area of bygone eras when it housed the settlements of merchants, port workers, government officers, and upper class groups of society. The influence of Asia and Europe mingled to establish an area with specific multicultural heritage assets (tangible and intangible). The impact from the previous inter- and intraregion development (as residential and commercial centers) during the 16th - 18th centuries left historical remnants such as monuments, historic corridors, heritage districts, buildings, and cemeteries. It also indirectly created a unique multi-culture shaped by inter-marriages and different religious practices and lifestyles.

3.1. Tangible Cultural Heritage Assets (Cultural Resource Mapping)

Tangible Cultural Heritage Assets (TCHA) or cultural resource mapping indicated and record the physical cultural heritage resource. It has identified 792 units of cultural resources (tangible assets) in the study area. It divides into two categories, cultural heritage i.e. living history sites, historic corridors, buildings, and cemeteries and a natural site i.e. the Melaka River (refer to Table 1).

Tabel 1. Cultural resources of the old quarter of Melaka

Culture Resource Elements Total unit

Living history sites 2 9 561 213 6

Cultural Heritage Historic corridors Buildings (shop)

Buildings (residential)

Natural Heritage River 1

Total Cultural Resource 792

Currently, there are more than 561 units of shop houses / commercial buildings, 213 units of residential buildings, 6 units of religious buildings, and 2 areas of historical Mausoleums. There are four main streets: Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock (Heren Street), Jalan Hang Jebat (Jonker Street), Jalan Tokong / Tukang Emas / Tukang Besi, and Kampung Pantai Street. There also five alleyways: Lorong Hang Jebat, Jalan Hang Kasturi, Jalan Hang Lekiu, Jalan Hang Lekir, and Kampung Kuli Street (Dossier, 2008). The streets connect places that are considered symbolic of Melaka's various communities, culture, and history and evoke special characters and identity.

In extension to the two types of main cultural resources, a few other sub-categories can be added, including space and facilities, festivals and events, creative culture industries, community cultural organizations, and creative culture occupations (refer to Table 2). It was found that most of the TCHA such as buildings (shop houses and residential units) have been converted into venues for certain activities in order to fulfill current development demands. From the 317 listed cultural activities located in this area, 30 companies were listed as family legacy businesses which have been in operation for more than 60 years.

Under the sub-category of space and facilities, five elements were identified: private museums, religious worship houses, mausoleums, theatres, and art spaces and galleries. The Old Quarter is also used as a venue for the celebration of multicultural festivals, as well as for the staging of performing arts and craft events. As part of an effort to safeguard traditional cultural knowledge and skills, 96 creative and art cultural industries are housed in this area; there are many commercial galleries, photography galleries, graphic designers, and art dealers/suppliers that exhibit local art such as beaded shoes and embroidered kebaya, batik, local traditional arts and crafts, and also modern art. Since there is a large art and culture community located here, the area has become a center for creative culture occupations. There are 115 occupations listed under this category, including restaurants/coffee shops (selling traditional food and beverage), antique shops, boutique hotels, sundry retailers, and carpentry shops. Most of these places still retain their functions and are meeting points and gathering places for the local communities as they are their connection to their past.

Tabel 2. Sub Category of culture resources

Category Elements Total unit(s)

Museums 3

Religious worship houses 5

Space and Facilities Mausoleums 2

Theaters 3

Art spaces and galleries 18

Craft festival 2

Festivals and Events Multicultural festivals 5

Performance arts festivals 4

Creative and art cultural industries Commercial galleries 22

(beaded shoes, embroidered kebaya, batik Photography galleries 11

panting, local traditional arts and crafts, Art dealers/suppliers 20

and modern art) Graphic designers 43

Community art organizations 30

Historical societies 5

Community Art and Cultural Organizations Multicultural organizations

Theater companies 2

Restaurant (traditional food and beverage) 51

Antique shops 7

Creative Culture Occupations Boutique hotels 25

Sundry retailers 32

Carpentry shops 14

Total 317

3.2. Intangible Cultural Heritage Assets (Community Identity mapping)

Community Identity mapping refers to the charting of non-physical assets of a community such as histories, traditions, stories, and legends that combine to define and express a community's identity. This study has identified a list of four main historical corridors with the stories. Their unique stories greatly contribute to understanding the characteristics of the place. These identities give an impact to activities conducted in the surrounding areas (refer to Table 3 and Figure 2).

For instance, historically, Hereen Street was the residence of upper class-groups of society during the Dutch and the British eras. A lot of historical relics such as shop houses and town houses with unique architecture and interior design can be found here, as well as a glimpse of the luxurious lifestyle of the Malacca Straits-born (Peranakan) people. The street is a cultural asset of Melaka City, and this is reflected by its current tenants such as art galleries, private museums, boutique hotels, and souvenir shops.

Table 3. The interdependency of cultural assets in the old quarter of Melaka City

Jalan Tokong Tukang Ernas' Tukang Besi

(Temple/Golclsmit h/Bl ac ksmitli Street)

There are many artisan shops along this road.

The street wis named Goldsmith and Blad:smith Street after the craftsmen of old Melaka.

City Artisan Zone

• Tinsmiths

• Blacksmiths

• Cobblers

• Coffin-makers

• Paper artisans

• Basket weavers

300 year old religious places of Temple street is renowned for This place still remains


Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Kampong Khng Mosque, Sri Poyyatlin Vina gar Moorthi Temple.

the three religious places of worship which are located there. Although this area was occupied by the Chinese community, the presence of a mosque and 3 Hindu temple show's that this area was once resided by 3 multi-ethnic community who were able to live harmoniously together.

as a religious place for tlie local and surrounding community.

Kampung Pantai Street

This street runs parallel to the river In the pa st, the river was the main route of transportation; hence goods that arrived via ships and boats were unloaded and stored m buildings nearby

Wholesaler shops. Traditional retailers selling sundry goods and items used for worship.

There are several narrow lanes that link this street to die river, showing that there is a close relationship between activities performed on the street and on the river in the past._

A symbol of Melaka's function as a port and trading post in the past.

The shops and activities still remain here. Loading and unloading activities still occur on this street which is usually congested with

wholesalers' lorries and tracks.

Fig. 2. Cultural mapping

3.3. The interdependency of cultural asset

This study shows that the relationships between people, place, element and activity are strong and establishes cultural assets as can be referred to in Fig.3. Cultural factors gleaned from history contribute to the vitality and robustness of the community in the area (people) in the form of cultural assets which lends a sense of connection to the past. It is include the emotional, spiritual, material and immaterial elements of the community. In the study area, a part of the local community tends to honour the area's story by celebrating it through physical activities and cultural events (place).

Therefore, both tangible and intangible cultural assets need to be developed in parallel to each other due to the robust relationship and interdependency between elements. Since the elements are inseparable from each other (Ito, 2003), developing them distinctly will simply empty the element of meaning and cause them to incompetently display the value of the cultural heritage assets. The value of these assets relies heavily on the concept of authenticity which, in a material sense, is attributed to the construction of a site instead of what had previously existed there. Conversely, in Asian countries, authenticity refers to spirituality and naturalistic sensibilities of the site, not the material of the architecture itself. For instance, the title of 'oldest temple' is vested on a site based on the history of holiness of the area rather than the age of the building (Rodwell, 2007; Chung, 2005). Rafooneh, 2013 and Chang 1996, claim that the local identity can be compromised simply because certain urban structures are duplicated across national boundaries. Cities differ in their heritage of urban form and undertake heritage conservation for varied reasons. It is implausible for visitors to want to travel or visit clone cities as they would want to see and experience something different (Law, 1993). Cities need to develop something that is distinctive, either

based on the inherent character of the place, the uniqueness of the local identity, or other attractive activities.

As mentioned above, both tangible and intangible elements are important, and they need to be in synergy. Tangible cultural heritage (TCH), the physical elements or monuments, are actively protected through conservation and restoration management plans. On the other hand, Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) which consists of processes and practices, require the use of safeguarding approaches and methodologies that are different from that are used for TCH (Bounchenaki, 2003, Ito, 2003). TCH are physically fragile due to environmental conditions, but they are not subject to rapid change. Meanwhile, ICH are extremely vulnerable as they hinge on decisions and action of actors and social interaction.

Emotional, Spiritual, material/immaterial element

Fig. 3. The interdependency of cultural heritage asset

TCH is designed to on live those who produce or commission it. The fate of ICH is far more intimately related to its creators as it depends, in most cases, on oral transmission (Genovese, 2008 and NUTI, 2008). The safeguarding of ICH involves the collection, documentation and archiving of cultural property and the protection and support of its bearers i.e. the safeguarding and transmission of cultural practice and traditional knowledge. The communities must themselves take part in identifying and defining their ICH and decide which practices are part of their cultural heritage (Ito, 2003). However, TCH requires more protection, conservation and rehabilitation of assets such as conservation of monuments, cities or landscapes (UNESCO, 2010; Bounchenaki, 2003; Rodwell, 2007; Ito, 2003 and Aplin, 2002) as shown in Table 4.

Work conducted by Bounchenaki, (2003) has categorized the safeguarding approaches of these elements into three: 1) putting tangible heritage in a wider context - a holistic approach by locating the monument/artifact closely to the communities concerned in order to afford greater weight to its spiritual, political, and social value; 2) interpreting ICH into 'material' form - a 'freezing' approach which transforms intangible assets from oral form into material form such as archives, inventories, museums, and audio or film records; and 3) supporting practitioners and transmission of skill and knowledge - the 'Living National Treasure' is a system designed to enable tradition holders to pass their skills and knowledge to future generations.

Table 4. Assosiation between intangible and tangible heritage

Cultural Heritage Asset



Language, literature, mythical story, event or festival of culture, rites/beliefs, music, song, performing arts, traditional culinary arts, medicine, games, sports, and religious ceremony.

Heritage sites, historic cities, cultural landscape, natural sacred sites, museums,


handicrafts, documentaries, digital and cinematographic heritage, underwater cultural heritage and movable culture.

Measurement /

Approach and method

Process and practice of traditional knowledge and skills. It involves the collection, documentation, and archiving of cultural property.

Conservation and restoration of artefacts/urban space/landscape. Needs specific treatment using physical tools.

Indicate the product

Needs recommendations and recognition from the practice community.

The state will identify the artifact.

Main requirements for World Heritage list

3.4. Cultural Mapping Approach (CMA)

Results of this study show that CMA is a systematic approach for the identification and recording of cultural resources. This approach allows researchers to identify cultural heritage resources using GIS tools. Through multimedia enriched web-bases, cultural mapping also enhances the identification and exploration of the community's identity by mapping intangible cultural resources such as traditional values and unique histories that combine to define a community's identity and a sense of place. It can also be used to identify the relationship between two types of cultural heritage assets.

The data create establishes database of cultural resource information to support decision-making purposes. It also can be integrated into municipal plans (e.g. land use, economic and tourism development), as well as used as an indicator in measuring the sustainability of the historic city.

The CMA provides a "one-stop" resource information and also promotional tool of all of the cultural assets in the study area. It supports the local cultural sector by offering information about the culture of the area to local residents and visitors alike. It can create new opportunities for peer-to-peer business relationships and showcase the local quality of life to potential new residents.

Although efforts for the collection of current and reliable data for the project were done, some gaps still exist. This study provides a comprehensive inventory and information of the cultural resources, but it is not considered a complete list. This is because CMA is an on-going process and the resource inventory is always evolving and changing. Some of the data cannot capture all of the cultural heritage resources due to the lack of information in terms of secondary data (published resources). There are also several private heritage collections that could not be put on record due to the lack of cooperation from owners during the data collection process some of whom also wished for their collections to not be published.

Fig. 4. (a) Cultural resource mapping (single properties); (b) GIS attribute

4. Conclusions

The findings of the study highlight that tangible cultural resources and intangible community identity are related and are highly interdependent. Cultural factors gleaned from history contribute to the vitality and robustness of the community of the area; cultural assets lend a sense of history and belongingness to

the descendants of the past residents. Studies show that cultural assets consist of emotional, spiritual, material, and immaterial elements. It can be something physically material such as a meeting place like a coffee shop, market or a religious place of worship, and it can also be a unique track such as a path or alley which encourages special types of activities and contributes to the unique ambiance of the area. On the other hand, something abstract such as the story of the area is also a cultural asset, especially when it involves people, places, and activities. This element can stimulate the local community to be concerned about their area. Parts of society (especially local communities) tend to honor the story of their area by celebrating it through physical activities and cultural events.

However, the study area has started to show less emphasis on the preservation of ICH. This is due to a few factors such as the relocation of local people to areas outside their current settlement due to increasing living costs i.e. rent; the pressure of development and modern lifestyle; the disinterest of descendants in practicing the cultural knowledge and skills of their ancestors; and the disproportionate development of TCH and ICH, with TCH receiving more focus than ICH. In addition, the use of promotional products which are only intended for economic returns and the lack of legal provisions for the safeguarding of ICH values are also main contributory factors. Thus, the area needs a specific method to safeguard this cultural heritage asset.

This study verifies that CMA is a systematic approach for the identification, recording and classifying of a community's cultural resources so that they may be visualized. It was also able to show the relationship and interdependence between the two types of cultural assets.

This approach provides a "one-stop" resource for information and promotion of all the cultural assets in the study area which can be used for various purposes. However, there are still some gaps that must be overcome in the future such as the lack of information and the limitation of data sources.

In terms of identifying the relationship and interdependency of the elements, another level of research is required in order to establish and strongly support the thesis using the quantitative approach. However, this study is on-going, and the results will be presented in the next paper.


Special thanks to Professor Amran Hamzah for his valuable feedback and to Miss Azzyan in the process of mapping and plotting the data, as well as to the Ministry of Higher Education that funded this study.


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