by Zahara Shahriman
On a recent field Trip to Ipoh, Perak, 23 museum volunteers (including myself), 9 Malaysian Culture Group members and 5 Jabatan Muzium Malaysia (JMM) staff had the opportunity to visit 3 historical sights that gave us a comprehensive snap shot of life during the heyday of the tin industry.
The temporary museum within Falim House was my favourite of the day. Not everyone in our group agreed with me as a property developer had recently acquired the gorgeous 1920’s mansion and its surrounding land with the view of developing it into a commercial hub. So our first sight of Falim House was of a white colonial mansion surrounded by
hectares of muddy, bare land which have had all its trees chopped off ready for development. The developers plan to eventually transform Falim House, which had once been the home of mining tycoon Foo Nyit Tse, into a hotel. In the meantime, the newly renovated structure served as sales office cum pop-up museum and this closed last month.
For me, once we passed the sales office, the museum themed “A Tin Mining Family” was a real joy. I thought it showcased the lives of Ipoh’s fabulously wealthy tin mining towkays in a really fun and authentic way. With old photographs, some dating from before 1900, and a very wide range of artifacts (around 500 pieces in all) we got close to old mining equipment, kitchen equipment, furniture, toys, vehicles, sewing kits, clothes and much more. The exhibition also showed the four evils that faced the mining coolies – Opium, Gambling, Prostitution and the Triads. I especially enjoyed the depiction of hawkers who called at Falim House many years ago. At the end section of the exhibition a vintage film featuring tin mining in the Kinta Valley, both pre and post-war, ran continuously.
Kinta Tin Mining Museum
Our next stop was the Kinta Tin Mining Museum in Kampar. Kampar (about 36km from Ipoh) was once a thriving tin mining town but when the price of tin slumped in the 1980s, its glory days ended abruptly. As this museum is dedicated to the history of tin mining, we had a wonderful opportunity to not only learn the way tin was mined many years ago but, more interestingly for me, it gave a glimpse of how people who used to work in tin mines lived. I really got a feel of how grueling, mind-numbing and dangerous the work in tin mines was. Personally, I thought this private museum is interesting and informative and definitely worth a visit.
Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge
Our last stop was the Tanjung Tualang Dredge No 5, a behemoth industrial relic from our tin mining glory days. Even from a distance the decommissioned tin dredge looked impressively large – it weighs 4,500 tons and is supported by a pontoon of 75 meters in length, 35 meters in width and 3 meters in depth – but when you step on it you get a real feel of how powerful it must have been when it was hard at work years ago. Essentially, it worked by scooping up bucket loads of tin-bearing soil at the front end, which then passed through an oscillating drum and a system of jigs and screens to extract the tin, before spewing out the waste material at the rear end through a number of chutes. By walking around Tanjung Tualang tin dredge, which was built in England in 1938, you get to see how this floating factory used to work up close. This is one of the last tin dredges in Malaysia and is really a sight to behold.