“I would like to see more experiential and interactive programmes that makes use of museum spaces better. The Night Festival is a great example and I recalled a night tour that was conducted at the National Museum of Singapore a long while back that took you to the spooky, less visited areas of the museum. Maybe even sleep-in camps for kids would make the museum a more fun and engaging place and space.”
– Visitor to the Our SG Heritage Travelling Exhibition
Our treasures refer to our museums and heritage institutions, as well as the more than 200,000 artworks and artefacts in our National Collection that represent the diverse cultural heritage of Singapore, and countries with historical and cultural links to Singapore. In addition, publications, documents, film records, audio-visual records and oral history recordings stored by the National Library Board and the National Archives of Singapore are also important treasures that tell the Singapore story. Collectively, they form an important part of Singapore’s heritage, and help us to understand our past.
What will Our SG Heritage Plan do?
Build and Care for the National Collection
Collections are crucial to supporting any museum’s mission in research, interpretation and display, and in differentiating museums from other knowledge institutions. Artefacts and artworks are necessary to tell different stories and generate conversations that enable us to discover or rediscover our shared heritage and identity; and in so doing strengthening our sense of self and belonging.
Under Our SG Heritage Plan, we will continue to acquire artefacts and artworks for, as well as encourage donations to, the National Collection so that Singapore is able to build up a world-renowned collection comparable to that of major collections in other global cities.
The National Collection is under the care of the National Heritage Board’s (NHB) Heritage Conservation Centre (HCC), which serves as a repository and a conservation facility. The HCC ensures that these artefacts and artworks are properly cared for so that they can be displayed in our museums and heritage institutions, and passed down to future generations of Singaporeans.
Under Our SG Heritage Plan, we will continue to strengthen the HCC’s capabilities, processes and facilities in the areas of conservation research, science and treatment, as well as collections management and storage.
Develop a National Register for Singapore-based Collections
Many public agencies in Singapore have collections of artworks and artefacts, and it is timely to take stock of these collections so as to better identify important artworks and artefacts, and enable NHB to work with the relevant agencies to provide the necessary conservation care and advice for these artworks and artefacts.
Under Our SG Heritage Plan, we are working with public agencies to develop a National Register for Singapore-based collections, which will serve as a central record of these artworks and artefacts. In the longer term, some of these artworks and artefacts can also be loaned to the museums and heritage institutions for exhibitions, thereby increasing the public’s access to and enjoyment of these artworks and artefacts.
Improving Our Museums and Institutions
Under Our SG Heritage Plan, our museums and heritage institutions will continue to present quality exhibitions and programmes that showcase more diverse aspects of Singapore’s history, society and identity. At the same time, they will continue to support a vibrant research culture, be more inclusive to visitors from all walks of life, and work towards establishing better connections with regional and global museum networks and audiences through the following strategies and initiatives:
Cultivate a Vibrant Research Culture
A museum functions as a “library” of knowledge and tells stories through their artefacts and artworks so that visitors can discover new facts and enjoy diverse perspectives. In view of this, our curators will devote more resources to conducting and publishing their research, and sharing their research through public lectures and talks.
In addition, our museums such as the ACM will continue to award research fellowship grants to deepen research on its artefacts and artworks, and we will facilitate access to the National Collection so that other researchers can study our artefacts and artworks, and generate new heritage related research.
Enhance Museum Infrastructure and Content
Museums and heritage institutions play an important role in presenting Singapore and Asian history through their exhibitions and programmes. In the coming years, we will continue to strengthen and improve the infrastructure across our museums, heritage institutions and World War II interpretive centres.
For instance, the Changi Chapel Museum (CCM) will undergo a physical facelift and its galleries will be revamped. Its facilities will be upgraded and its exhibition content refreshed to better highlight the stories of Changi and the war.
Our museums and heritage institutions will also continue to take advantage of the latest digital trends, and work with partners to present their content in innovative ways, to create rich, meaningful experiences for visitors.
Make Museums More Accessible and Inclusive
To turn our museums and heritage institutions into more inclusive social spaces, we will conduct an accessibility audit and review all aspects of accessibility, from the physical (e.g., how wheelchair-friendly our buildings are) to the intangible, such as how well our exhibitions and programmes cater to the diverse needs of our visitors. Through the audit, we will also explore solutions, including the use of assistive technologies to improve physical accessibility and creative new ways of engaging audiences.
Develop and Present More “Curated-by-Singapore” Content
We will focus on presenting more “curated-by-Singapore” exhibitions to showcase our stories, our National Collection and our Singaporean curators. These exhibitions will be told from a Singaporean perspective, and could incorporate audience inputs where appropriate.
Provide Stronger Stewardship for Museum Sector
Under Our SG Heritage Plan, we will also strive to provide stronger stewardship for the larger museum sector, and focus on building up the skills and expertise of museum professionals in the Museum Roundtable. We will also work towards strengthening our museums’ and heritage institutions’ knowledge, intellectual and social capital, and using their research, exhibitions and programmes to develop valuable skillsets required in the broader economic and social landscape in Singapore.
Nurture a Love of Heritage Amongst Our Young
Education programmes are an important component of our museum activities, as well as our outreach efforts to schools. These programmes aim to foster a sense of nationhood and identity through heritage and museum education, and lay the foundations for a lifelong interest in heritage and culture.
We have worked with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to integrate our museum collections with the core curricula of Social Studies at the primary level, and History at the lower secondary level. This is supplemented by field-based learning packages to the museums, which contain self-guided worksheets for students.
Since 2012, we have also introduced various education programmes targeting pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary students, and they include Singapore’s Little Treasures for pre-schoolers, the Heritage Explorers Programme for primary schools, and the School Heritage Corners Programme and Heritage Trail Adoption Scheme for both primary and secondary schools.
Under Our SG Heritage Plan, we will continue to support the MOE’s existing efforts to provide a holistic education by increasing the number of structured school visits to our museums and heritage institutions and providing students on these visits with more interactive and enriching experiences.
We will also grow our pool of museum educator-guides, comprising retired teachers, freelance educators and museum docents, who will be trained to facilitate students’ encounters with Singapore’s heritage in a more engaging manner through first-hand observation and interaction with historical and cultural artefacts.
Safeguard Archaeological Heritage
Singapore’s archaeology helps us uncover our country’s pre-colonial history, and fosters greater pride in our nation’s past that, unknown to some, goes back to the 14th century. Under Our SG Heritage Plan, we will be introducing the following initiatives to safeguard and promote Singapore’s archaeological heritage:
We will be reviewing the NHB Act with the aim to improve the protection of Singapore’s archaeological heritage. We will strengthen the act and introduce a framework to govern archaeology in Singapore. These changes to the legislation will also be extended to cover the protection of Singapore’s maritime archaeology within Singapore’s territorial waters.
Conduct Survey to Identify Sites of Archaeological Interest
As part of the longer term protection of Singapore’s archaeological heritage, there is a need to identify and map out sites of archaeological interest in Singapore. We have commissioned a nationwide survey and the survey findings will help to ensure that sites with archaeological potential can be excavated and documented before they are redeveloped, and/or excavations can be carried out in tandem with such works.
Develop Archaeological Capabilities
As interest in archaeology grows and archaeological projects gain momentum in Singapore, the demand for trained archaeologists and resources supporting archaeological research will also grow. To address this, the NHB will help build up local capabilities by partnering existing stakeholders such as the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and the National University of Singapore and supporting research and other capacity-building initiatives.
Reach Out to the Community
The protection of Singapore’s archaeological heritage needs the participation of Singaporeans. We will work in partnership with research institutions to create greater awareness of archaeology in Singapore. We will also explore opportunities for Singaporeans to contribute to the discovery and protection of Singapore’s archaeological heritage through volunteer programmes at archaeological excavations, and other related work such as the cataloguing and documenting of archaeological finds.
Commemorate Key Milestones in Our History
The unfolding of key events and the contributions of key figures in Singapore’s history have shaped our nation, our society, and our people. These seminal events and figures offer important values, memories and lessons that anchor our identity, and often inspire us and give us the confidence to face the future. We will continue to commemorate the key milestones of Singapore’s history and our pioneers through the following strategies and initiatives:
Develop the Founders’ Memorial
In June 2015, a 15-member Committee led by Chairman Mr Lee Tzu Yang was established to seek the public’s views on the idea of a Founders’ Memorial. The memorial seeks to honour the legacy of Singapore’s founding generation of leaders, and inspire future generations to reflect on the ideals and values upon which the nation was built.
From October 2015 to April 2017, a series of public engagement sessions were conducted and more than 32,000 people contributed their ideas and visions for the memorial. In August 2017, it was announced that the Founders’ Memorial would be located at Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay.
The next phase of the project will see the Founders’ Memorial taking shape in terms of its design and content. We will work with Gardens by the Bay to support the Founders’ Memorial Committee in engaging stakeholders and the public on the concept and form of the memorial, determining the design requirements, and developing the content and programming approach for the memorial.
Celebrate Singapore Bicentennial in 2019
Singapore’s history stretches back at least 700 years, and the year 1819 marks a turning point in that journey as it was the year the island was founded as a British colony by Sir Stamford Raffles. Throughout that journey, Singapore’s development was shaped by how it was part of, and responded to, regional and global events. The values that have evolved with us on that journey – openness, multiculturalism and self-determination – are still relevant today.
In 2019, we will work with other public sector agencies and key stakeholders to commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial with a year-long calendar of exhibitions and programmes.
Build International Partnerships and Showcase Singapore’s Heritage to the World
We have built, and will continue to grow, an extensive network of international partnerships with government agencies, museums and other heritage-related organisations from around the world, as well as with international governmental and non-governmental organisations that care for heritage such as UNESCO and ASEAN. Through these partnerships, we will learn from best practices to deepen the expertise and raise the capabilities of Singapore’s museum and heritage sector.
In addition, through the loan of artefacts, and the presentation of exhibitions and programmes from our international museum partners at our museums and heritage institutions, we will provide platforms for Singaporeans to learn more about regional and world heritage, as well as our links to the region and the world.
We will also continue to strengthen our cultural diplomacy efforts by building mindshare and winning hearts overseas, and we will do so by showcasing the best of Singapore’s heritage to the rest of the world through travelling exhibitions, festivals and other initiatives.