Often, it’s only when we leave a place that we realise how much it means to us. Gabrielle Wong, a librarian currently based in Morocco, found herself increasingly drawn to old photos of KL after she left Malaysia aged 18. Last year, she started the blog Vintage KL, creating an archive of photos that span the 1940’s to the 1990’s.

The photos range from historical moments (like the visit of President Nixon’s wife in 1953) to personal family portraits and holiday snaps: the kind which can be found in any faded photo album in your family home. Gabrielle says her favourite photos tend to be the latter type: “History books are great but photos, especially personal ones, provide another view into the city’s past. The story in these pictures are about the people and our interaction with the city.”

Gabrielle was inspired to start the blog after a summer holiday visit to KL: “I was looking around my housing area, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, and realised that so much has changed. So I poked around online for old photos of Taman Tun… because we all know the internet has everything! Long story short, one photo hunt led to another and I realised there was so about KL I didn’t know.”

Gabrielle searches all corners of the internet for the images, including Google and online library archives, but she also encourages submissions from people who wish to contribute their own photos. “There’s plenty of untapped sources offline”, she adds. “Newspaper archives, our national library and the arkib.”

Vintage KL’s Tumblr has recently gained attention from Facebook shares. Asked why we are so drawn to nostlagic artefacts like old photos, Gabrielle hazards a guess: “Possibly for the same reason some people are fascinated with family trees and lineage? We try to connect the dot backwards to trace a path from the present… so we can look and say, “Oh, that’s where we came from.” Without the past, there’s only now.”

1940, Lucky World on Batu Road.
1950’s
1953, President Nixon’s wife visits Methodist Girls’ School.
Undated, Subang airport.
1957, A kenduri to welcome Ramadhan at the Jalan Shaw Fire Station, submitted by Samsinar Salim.
1960, The first day of Hari Raya.
1963, A bike, a beca, a bus.
1964, Sulaiman Court flats (around Sogo Shopping Mall today).

Words by Ling Low. All photos and captions shared from Vintage KL’s Tumblr.

Find out more about Vintage KL here or follow on Twitter @vintageKL.