It is my privilege and pleasure to welcome you to the Patron of Heritage Awards 2021. I offer my heartiest congratulations and heartfelt thanks to the 31 patrons awarded this year, who contributed $1.66 million to heritage causes in 2021.
As we navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic situation, our shared heritage plays an even more vital role in anchoring our identity, connecting us as fellow Singaporeans, and restoring our confidence for a post-COVID future. We have gone through unprecedented times, but I am heartened that many organisations and individuals remain committed to championing our heritage. Your support has been instrumental in ensuring that Singaporeans continue to have a bountiful well of heritage offerings and experiences to draw strength and inspiration from.
The National Museum of Singapore’s (NMS) Picturing the Pandemic: A Visual Record of COVID-19 in Singapore was the first exhibition under the Museum’s Collecting Contemporary Singapore initiative, which aims to capture events and developments in Singapore’s contemporary history with publicly-sourced artefacts and stories. It charted Singapore’s response to the COVID-19 global crisis, and reminded us of how we came through as a community with unflagging determination through much uncertainty.
At the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Life in Edo | Russel Wong in Kyoto exhibition featured Edo-period Japanese woodblock prints alongside contemporary photographs of Kyoto and the geisha community donated by Singaporean photographer Russel Wong. The juxtaposition was compelling and enabled Singaporeans to traverse different worlds – both past and present as well as in a foreign land, during a time when travel was impossible for many of us.
Our heritage institutions continued their sterling work with the ethnic communities in Singapore to present offerings that open windows into lesser-known aspects of Singaporean heritage. For instance, the Indian Heritage Centre’s Sikhs in Singapore – A Story Untold offered enriching insights into this small but illustrious Singapore Indian community, including its rich beliefs and traditions. The Malay Heritage Centre drew together the shared stories and narratives that it had presented over the past decade in the retrospective exhibition Cerita (Stories), which also served to spotlight the many diverse groups that it has worked with.
Caring for Singapore’s collection of artefacts and artworks, which have been built up through contributions by many valued members of the community, is vital to NHB’s mission of safeguarding and celebrating our shared heritage. As the entrusted custodian of these treasures, NHB presented The World of Heritage Conservation: Sneak Peeks into Safeguarding Singapore’s National Collection, a travelling exhibition that delved into the often-unseen world of our conservators and their work. Visitors were invited to go behind the scenes to discover the delicate and yet precise art and science of caring for our national treasures.
2021 also marked several chronological milestones for the heritage sector. We celebrated the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s journey in preserving our National Monuments with the PSM50: Golden Jubilee of Preservation in Singapore exhibition at NMS, which helped re-acquaint visitors with the treasured landmarks of Singapore’s heritage that have stood the test of time and significance.
We also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Museum Roundtable with a year-long celebration anchored by outreach programmes which drew attention to the many gems in this network of public and private museums and heritage galleries, now numbering over 60. With support, The Intan developed video snippets which showcased distinctive aspects of the Peranakan way of life and the SGH Museum, housed in Bowyer Block, itself a National Monument, reopened with a refreshed design with restored artefacts, supplemented by multimedia and digital content to mark its 200th year contributing to national healthcare. Such enhancements contribute towards a vibrant museum landscape, providing Singaporeans with more diverse touchpoints to explore our heritage.
Likewise, the strong support from dedicated patrons has also helped to boost the efforts of our outreach programmes and initiatives. In particular, this has helped the language campaigns and festivals – Speak Good English Movement, Speak Mandarin Campaign, Bulan Bahasa (Malay Language Month) and Tamil Language Festival – promote greater awareness and appreciation of the languages through programmes such as competitions, workshops and other partner-led activities.
With our return to normalcy well on track, there are now more opportunities for Singaporeans to participate, co-create and engage with our heritage. We will soon be launching Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0, which promises to propel us to the next exciting phase of growth for the heritage and museum sector. The public consultation is currently underway, and we would be delighted to get everyone’s views on how we can make heritage even more accessible, compelling and vibrant for Singaporeans. As we stride ahead towards these, we look forward to your continued and enduring support.
Ms Yeoh Chee Yan
National Heritage Board