In 2007, the National Heritage Department of the Ministry of Cultural, Art and Heritage has gazette 50 items of tangible and intangible heritage treasures which will be conserved and preserved. The declaration is to create awareness in society on the importance of preserving the national heritage to be appreciated by the next generation (Minister of Unity, Culture, Arts, and Heritage, 2009). "National Heritage" means any heritage site, heritage object, underwater cultural heritage or any living person declared as a National Heritage under section 67, (National Heritage Act,2005). In conjunction with that, the School of Art has chosen 13 tangible heritage site of 18 in attempt to promote these national heritage worldwide.
The 13 buildings are:
- St. George's Church, Penang
- Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Kuala Lumpur
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial, Kuala Lumpur
- National Monument, Kuala Lumpur
- The Parliament, Kuala Lumpur
- National Textile Museum, Kuala Lumpur
- City Town Hall, Kuala Lumpur
- General Post Office, Kuala Lumpur
- National Mosque, Kuala Lumpur
- Malayan Railway Administration Office, Kuala Lumpur
- Malayan Railway Station, Kuala Lumpur
- Mahariaman Temple, Batu Caves, Selangor
- KL - Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur
"Heritage" imports the generic meaning of a National Heritage, sites, objects and underwater cultural heritage whether listed or not in the Register; while "Building" means a building or groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of hi story, art or science (National Heritage Act,2005).
The main aim of the research is to increase awareness and appreciation of the importance of conserving tangible cultural heritage which is the heritage buildings by transforming those building into Virtual Reality packages in 3-dimensional forms. Besides, our target in this research is also to produce creative and informative coffee table books, video documentary, website, articles and internet resources linked databases. These end products will be reference resources to any individual or organisations. In other words, this research helps to increase public awareness about the significance of heritage buildings in our country and to boost up the promotion of heritage tourism in Malaysia. This is one of the ways of promoting and to market Malaysian heritage buildings around the world as how world-recognized buildings such as the Pyramid in Giza, the Taj Mahal in India or the Borobodur Temple in Indonesia being popularized and well-known by people around the world.
The conservation, preservation, archiving, documenting and recording of cultural heritage are currently important at national and international levels. The preservation and conservation project not only being worked on by the UNESCO but researchers from private sectors, libraries, museum and cultural institution from all over the world are working towards sustainability of cultural heritage (Vincent Charvillat et al:2009). In maintaining and preserving these cultural heritages, preservation and conservation of heritage buildings should been done in order to uphold and sustain its value so that it could be appreciated and witnessed by our younger generations in future. Work by A. Ghafar (2001), A.Ghafar (2006), Badaruddin Mohamed et al. (n.d.), S.N.Kamaruzzaman, Badaruddin Mohamed (2001) has shown efforts and projects that have been undergone in Malaysia specifically. Living in an era of high technologies has brought many transformation in the approaches and uses of cultural heritage and it changed the process of documenting, recording, accumulation and investigation of cultural heritage and the process of propagation of information (Ganka Cventanova:2011).
Malaysia has been blessed with unique customs, traditions and multi-cultural events. As a country that has been colonized by Portuguese (1511-1641), Dutch (1641-1795) and British (1795 – 1957) for over 300 years, it had left significant and notable event as well as their culture and heritage assets (A.Ghafar et al (2002)). The remains of the colonial heritage buildings that were built during the colonization made a different ambience and provide a distinctive character and flavor in the historic cities and could still be found throughout Malaysia including the cities of Georgetown, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Taiping. Some of the examples of British architecture are St. George’s Church in Penang and Malayan Railway Station in Kuala Lumpur. Malacca for instance is well-known for the Portuguese and Dutch architecture. Some examples of the Portuguese architecture are St. Paul’s Church and A Famosa while examples of the Dutch architecture are the Stadthuys and Christ Church. Being gazette as the national heritage by the local authorities, National Heritage Department, many of these buildings ranging from railways stations, administration offices, mansion to churches have gone through conservation process and preservation and most of them have been adapted into new uses and converted into business uses in order to improve economic scale and to boost up the promotion of heritage tourism in Malaysia (A.Ghafar et al : 2002).
Heritages are national treasures that were once owned by someone or a group of people in the society that holds responsibility to preserve and conserve the heritage. Examples of heritage are education, knowledge, and expertise. It is inherited from one generation to another transforming into lifestyle and trust by cultural influence. It reflects an entire memory of existence by a group or society, as well as it represents civilization and development of a nation.
National Heritage Act is an act whereby it provides grant to cultivate National Heritage, Tangible Cultural Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage as well as Natural Heritage. It also offers method and rules policy regarding the cultivation and management of national heritage and treasure. On top of, the act also provides National Heritage Registration. The National Heritage Act is governed by a Heritage Commissioner, which is elected by the minister. The National Heritage Council advises minister and the Heritage Commissioner in matters relating national heritage. Following are the characteristic of a building that can be considered. During declaration under subsection (1), Minister has to consider the following:
- The importance and historical value and its relativity with Malaysian history
- Design and aesthetic features
- Scientific or technical development or achievement
- Social or cultural correlation
- The potential to educate, explain or arrange a thorough scientific research to further explore Malaysian cultural heritage
- The importance of showcasing the extraordinary forms of richness, diversity or integration
- Forming a view of a site or object as part of a class or type
- Any other matter concerning the determination of an important cultural heritage.
The registering of a heritage status, likewise the National Heritage will increase the value of the heritage treasure. It will be exclusively protected and taken care its originality and quality by related experts. Every heritage treasure that has been gazette as a Heritage or has been declared, as National Heritage will not be disposed its ownership rights (Jabatan Warisan Negara, 2007). This includes the authority of the property owner to sell or transfer the heritage rights. However, the Heritage Commissioner has to be notified of every permanent movement of rights of the specific heritage treasure for protection purposes to the treasure or national heritage.