Malaysia’s telegraph history in Taiping

Sylvia Looi
The building that houses the museum was the first post office & telegraph office in Malaya, which later became the first office of Telekom Malaysia. — Picture by Farhan Najib

TAIPING, July 21 — In the super-fast digital age, some forms of communication technology have become obsolete.

The telegraph system is one of them, having started in Malaya in the 19th century and discontinued on July 1, 2012.

Now, the first museum in Southeast Asia dedicated to the history of the telegraph communication system is open to the public.

Housed in a heritage building in Taiping’s Jalan Stesen, the Telegraph Museum belongs to Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) via the Yayasan Telekom Malaysia (YTM).

YTM director Abd Hamid Hashim said it took some three years to complete the project that began in 2015.

“Some were not confident that we could do it but here we are,” he told reporters after the opening of the museum by Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah recently.

Extensive research was carried out to ensure the museum was a success.

“We studied the building’s history as well,” he said.

“A team was stationed at the National Archives to check the facts about the building and also the items displayed.”

A museum staff (right) briefs a visitor about one of the items on display in the Telegraph Museum in Taiping.

Abd Hamid said the idea to have the museum, the second after the opening of the Telekom Museum in Kuala Lumpur in 1994, was proposed to the TM board of directors on 2015.

“We wanted the employees to appreciate the company’s history,” he said of the idea for the Telegraph Museum.

Abd Hamid said he first laid eyes on the building, which is about 135 years old, in 2003 when he came to Taiping to deliver a talk to TM employees.

“The building, built in 19th century, was the first post office & telegraph office in Malaya, which later became the first office of Telekom Malaysia.

“It is appropriate to have the museum here.”

To collect the more than 50 artefacts displayed at the museum, Abd Hamid said they approached former employees.

“We asked whether they had relevant items that they could share.

“We also went through our godowns all over the country to search for the items and the result is what you see in the museum.”

The 1870s submarine cable on display at the Telegraph Museum.

Among the interesting artefacts is the 1870s submarine cable, which was the earliest cable in the world, that used insulation material made from the Gutta Percha tree extract.

There are also the transmitter and reception tools as well as other peripherals related to telegraph system.

Abd Hamid added that e-books are also made available in the museum in order to make the museum more interesting.

“We have more than 1,000 titles. You can read them after paying the admission fee,” he added.

Visitors are seen at the newly-launched Telegraph Museum in Taiping.

For those who are not keen on reading, there is the museum engagement application.

“Visitors just need to scan a code on an item and it will display the item’s description.”

There are seven languages available in the application.

Abd Hamid said TM hoped the museum would be the place for students, researchers and communities to deepen their understanding on the country’s telecommunication heritage and telegraphy communications system.

The museum, at 2664, Jalan Stesen, Taiping, is open daily except for public holidays, from 8.30am to 5pm.

Admission for Malaysians is RM8 (adults) and RM5 (children) while non-citizens are charged RM15 each.

Bulk sale of tickets are available.