Preserving Malaysia’s Music Heritage - A labour of love...
The Penang House of Music (PHoM) is a heritage resource center located in the island which was part of Britain’s Straits Settlement (including Malacca and Singapore) in the 1820s.As an entrepôt for over 200 years, the island is the epitome of diverse historical cultures and deep, rich heritage in Malaysia.
At its inception, PHoM’s collections and archives focused on the island’s local community's cultural and musical traditions.Music, literature and information on social entertainment and the lives of Penang’s pioneer singers and bands were collected, documented and catalogued. Today, the archive has expanded to include materials and records of the country and surrounding region’s heritage in cultural diversity and performing arts.
78rpm Vinyls from recording company greats like Pathe, Gramophone Concert and Odeon, including one that dates back to 1903.Early recordings, music tapes, cartridges, cassettes to early day CDs.Multi-lingual entertainment magazines and social souvenir books on musical and cultural events spanning the 50s to 70s.Timeless photographs, radio song request cards, newspapers and school song books of the same period.One literary gem is a school exercise-book of a British Army personnel on guitar chords, possibly studied in the 1930s.
PHoM has developed a new collection of invaluable music heritage – proprietary documentaries on pioneer singers and bands, as well folk and cultural artistes.The documentary includes interviews with the living legends, chronicling their experience, thoughts and memories throughout their careers.
With clear foresight, PHoM was well aware of the longevity risks of its physical archives.Paper degradation, and vinegar syndrome was already visible in some of its older archives.The main risk was evident – any further loss of the physical object would be a consequence to a loss of piece of our cultural history.
PHoM has been steadily digitising their treasured repository. Digital audio conversions and document scanning became part of the resource center’s daily grind.To date, PHoM’s has a digital archive of approximately 4TB, and continues to grow.As PHoM currently uses hard drives for its storage, that brought on another problem -data storage constraints and constant upgrades.Overall, the bigger concern was the limited lifespan of hard drives and technological obsolescence.Hence, they needed a more reliable and secure archival medium to ensure that long term preservation can be achieved.
Piql reached out to PHoM’s founder, Paul Augustin for an introduction to Piqlfilm’s innovative archival solution which can help resolve their long term preservation dilemma.
Paul and his team researched our technology and saw its alleviating benefits to their problem.A proof of concept to store a selection of PHoM’s oldest music recordings from the early 1900s was undertaken.
PHoM’s Piql proof of concept reel was delivered and exhibited at its inaugural symposium, titled “Echoes, Shadows & Footprints” in late June 2022.The event, organised by PHoM, was attended by exemplary ethnomusicologists, academicians, key experts, and progressive researchers of Malaysia’s performing arts and culture.
PHoM will be planning a progressive migration of its archives with Piql.
“Much has been lost over time and we realise that we are in a fight against time to preserve these important irreplaceable treasures for posterity…we have found that the research and development efforts and significant client base of Piql makes it the current gold standard for long term digital data preservation”
Paul Augustin, Founder, Penang House of Music
Photo credits: PHoM; Buletin Mutiara