myBALIKpulau, Arts-ED, PENANG (myBALIKpulau PROGRAMME), 2005 – 2010

The Heritage Building Inventory Project involved young people in a study and documentation of heritage shophouses, along the main street of Balik Pulau township and the main religious buildings in the vicinity. It also profiled occupants or users, as well as the use of the buildings.

Inventory done by the participant, Ikhwan Ali bin Wazani.
Source: Arts-ED

Inventory done by the participant, Ikhwan Ali bin Wazani. Source: Arts-ED

Fig 1 - Feature Photo

Interpretation is based on the Archive Record Inventory of the “Heritage Building Inventory” Project and participant feedback.

Download the Archive Record Inventory (PDF)


1.1 Programme Name

myBALIKpulau Programme, 2005-2010

1.2 Project Title

Heritage Building Inventory PROJECT, 2006

1.3 Context and Objective

Upon completion of the Photography project mySelf, myFamily, myTown in March 2006, a new project on inventorying traditional buildings was proposed. The intention was to continue facilitating young people to research, map, interpret, and promote the tangible and intangible culture of the Balik Pulau district via the creative arts. The second project planned to involve a mixed-age group of both primary and secondary school children from both the town and village area.

Dealing with a building inventory project however required special input, and Badan Warisan Malaysia was called in as the expert partner to help conceptualise and facilitate this project. As a heritage organisation, they already had the know-how and templates on inventory-making with younger participants from their previous LUNAS Heritage Project.

1.4 Project Description

The project involved 20 students aged 11-16 from 5 different schools in Balik Pulau, two design facilitators, four facilitators from Badan Warisan Malaysia, who were brought in for their expertise in conservation and building inventory, and two designers. The project was conducted over 20 full days and was split into 4 different phases, as follows:

  1. Building Inventory Phase: students learnt about various architecture, and produced an inventory of selected buildings;
  2. Research Phase: Students collected historical information about the buildings and occupants;
  3. Design a walking tour: Students defined and designed the routes for a walking tour of the selected buildings;
  4. Training of young tour guides: Students were then trained to be tour guides to explain the built and living environment.

1.5 Source Material

The built environment of Balik Pulau, and its occupants and activities formed the main source material for the project. Oral stories were also sourced from the owners and tenants of the buildings, which included their occupation history and the history of the use of the building.

Other source materials include cadastral maps of Balik Pulau town, the 100 anniversary catalogue obtained from the land office – Perayaan 100 Tahun Pentadbiran Pejabat Daerah: Daerah Barat Daya Pulau Pinang, a copy of Penang Past and Present Magazine, as well as data gathered from the first project.

1.6 Organiser/Producer


1.7 Project Lead

Lead: Janet Pillai

Coordinator: Chen Yoke Pin; Ho Sheau Fung

1.8 Creative Team

Expert team from Badan Warisan Malaysia: Lim Ee Lin, Elizabeth Cardosa, Helena Hashim, Intan Syaheeda Abu Bakar

Design: Tan Hui Koon, T.C. Liew

1.9 Participants

 SRK Sacred Heart 11-12 years 5-6 participants
SK St George 12-15 years 9-11 participants
SRJK Sacred Heart 12-16 years 5-7 participants
SMK (A) Al-Mashoor 13 years 1 participant
Unknown schools 13 years 3 participants
 TOTAL Number of Participants 23 – 28 Participants

1.10 Events and Activities

Recruitment and Training
 Sep 2006 Recruitment 5 Schools Balik Pulau
20 – 21 Nov 2006 Introduction and tour of Balik Pulau town Pejabat Daerah lama, Internet Desa and surrounding areas Balik Pulau
28 Nov – 1 Dec 2006 Building inventory Balik Pulau township Balik Pulau
4 Nov – 8 Dec 2006 Research on Occupants Balik Pulau Township Balik Pulau
11 – 15 Dec 2006 Designing the Walk Dewan Balora Mastika and on site. Balik Pulau
18 – 22 Dec 2006 Tour Guide Training Dewan Balora Mastika and on site Balik Pulau
22 Dec 2006 Internal sharing among participants  –

1.11 Promotional Material/Catalogue/Programme


1.12 Final Script/Final Curriculum


1.13 Multimedia Documentation


1.14 Previews and Reviews


1.15 Publications


1.16 Photographs


1.17 Final Report/Project Evaluation:



The slideshow represents the complete building inventory conducted by students, which highlights the shophouses of Balik Pulau town; elements of architecture, occupants and use of buildings.

Supporting Archival Materials

Arts-ED. (2017). Building Inventory : Images of Final Output (YouTube) 


Skill Training

The various components of the art-making process from the previous myBALIKpulau project were adhered to though with some differences. Students were first introduced to the tools, necessary knowledge, and vocabulary for inventory making – in this case, photography and architectural classification. Using interactive methods like role-play and games, students were also taught interview methods – which they had to employ during on-site research visits with community members.

The project was divided into four phases:

1. Building Inventory phase (Balik Pulau Building Inventory)

Facilitators from Badan Warisan Malaysia introduced the students to shophouse architecture and taught them how to photograph buildings and their features (internal and external) for the inventory. Students were also taught how to identify the different buildings according to their period, architectural value and use.

The students were then required to photograph all the houses in town, in sequence based on the sections of the town assigned to their team. Standard templates were used to assist the participants to look out for key heritage values, such as history, aesthetics, architectural features, materials and techniques used, function and use. They were also expected to gather basic information on selected buildings by interviewing the owners.

2. Research Phase (In-depth research on Balik Pulau history and 20 sites using interviews and photography)

The research phase kicked off with a promotional walk around selected parts of Balik Pulau. Facilitators introduced pre-selected sites (buildings, occupants, use of the buildings as homes or for trade purposes) to the participants. Each group of participants identified and selected their preferred site to research, then studied the reference materials from Arts-ED’s research archives on Balik Pulau, as well as materials from the previous myBALIKpulau photography project in 2005.

The students were trained in interview techniques via games and role-playing, and were guided to create interview questions before they set out to interview and collect information on the respective sites and occupants. They edited and categorised the data results as well as selected photos.

There were multiple rounds of refining information gathered from the data collection phase; all information collected was validated with facilitators, neighbours, or other knowledgeable persons. Missing information was collected through additional research or interviews. The students then refined their data and recompiled their findings using the given template.

3. Designing a tour of selected sites. 

The design phase saw the students defining and designing routes for both a walking and a bicycle trail, based on the sites of interest they had researched in the earlier phase. The students confirmed sites and buildings of interest, took photos, and drafted a map. They then tested the route, refined their map, and improved on the design. 

4. Training of young tour guides

During the final part of the programme, interested participants were given tour guide training to prepare them to conduct tours of their research sites.

Working in pairs, the students finalised the text for their tour guide spiel. The facilitators helped to check the students’ write-ups, and the students were given the chance to act as a tour guides to introduce their selected site to the facilitator.

The facilitators then gave feedback on their performance and taught them basic guiding techniques commonly used by tour guides. They also assisted the young tour guides to identify and gather more information to be added to their texts.

Exhibition as Output

The students’ work was exhibited at the end of the project in an internal showcase, with the audience consisting of the visual artists, facilitators, and members of the community interviewed during the research phase. The exhibition featured laminated inventories of various types of buildings in Balik Pulau, with accompanying photos and notes on the types of architecture designs and their functions, as well as historical and other information obtained from interviews with the current owners of the house.

No concrete or long-term activity emerged after inventory project except for some of the inventory being featured in the one-time Balik Pulau community newspaper produced in 2010. The tour guide-training did not yield sustainable results possibly because the children were too young to relate to the concept and to manage visitors on tour. Nevertheless, the idea of a proposed heritage trail evolved into a self-discovery Heritage Trail Map in the following year (2007) spearheaded by the Arts-ED team and adult artists.

Supporting Archival Materials

Arts-ED. (2006). MyBalikPulau 2006 – Workshop Framework/Timeline. (PDF)