KUCHING: The Sarawak Heritage Society (SHS) and Ministry of Tourism recently conducted the ‘Understanding Heritage and Its Interpretation’ workshop.
Participants of the two-day workshop were Sarawak Tourist Guides Association members as well as representatives from Residents’ and District Offices statewide.
Delivered by SHS volunteers, the workshop aimed to raise awareness of Sarawak’s rich heritage and also enhance the role of tour guides in promoting and protecting Kuching’s heritage amongst visitors.
Paul Gerarts, an experienced tour guide from Penang now living in Kuching, covered the background of World Heritage and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) approach; drawing comparisons between Mulu and Melaka and Georgetown as models of World Heritage sites.
The second session by architect Mike Boon was on Kuching’s heritage conservation with a pictorial walk through the heritage streets and other key conservation projects, from the old courthouse complex to Fort Alice in Sri Aman.
After lunch, licensed heritage tour guide Au Nyat Jun led a session on the specific demands of guiding in the heritage manner, supported by Gerarts, who shared his experiences of heritage guiding in Penang.
For the final session, participants shared their own knowledge and experience by applying what they had learned to identify heritage sites in their area and ways of presenting these sites to visitors.
The second day turned tour guides into tourists, with Boon and Au leading a field visit into the heritage core of Kuching city.
Participants look in a shophouse at Upper China Street, recently conserved in a heritage manner, and then took a walk in the surrounding streets, observing key features of this oldest part of the town such as the dental hospital on Carpenter Street and the various temples in the vicinity.
SHS president Karen Shepherd said the workshop was hugely important.
“It is through the eyes of these tour guides that visitors to Kuching will meet our great city,” she said.
“They are the ones who spread appreciation of our heritage around the world. So I commend them for giving up their time voluntarily to attend a workshop of this kind.”
Au, an SHS committee member, said there was positive feedback from the participants.
“Such a workshop is timely in view of the state government’s initiative to prepare certain parts of the Kuching Waterfront area for listing as a heritage site. I am very pleased with the outcome,” she said.