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What is Heritage?

Singapore’s heritage is found all around us and experienced as we go about our daily lives. From stately historical buildings and precious museum artefacts to festive celebrations and food offerings, Singapore’s rich and diverse multicultural heritage is one of the defining traits of our country, and of our identity as Singaporeans.

Heritage can be broadly categorised into tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Tangible heritage includes buildings, historic sites, monuments and landscapes that serve as physical reminders of our history and culture. It also includes objects that institutions and people create and/or collect. These objects, which form an important part of a nation’s history and cultural identity, include artefacts, artworks, documentary records, photographs, films and other objects of significant historical value.

Intangible cultural heritage comprises the practices, events, expressions, knowledge skills and trades which communities recognise as part of their cultural heritage. These different forms of heritage are typically passed down from one generation to another. Intangible cultural heritage, which includes our traditions and living expressions, will continue to evolve with the times and be constantly reshaped by communities in response to changes in their environment.

Under Our SG Heritage Plan, we have outlined strategies to safeguard and promote both tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Our efforts will make sure that what has been left to us from the past will become a legacy for the future.

“Singapore’s distinctive cultural heritage is the anchor of national identity. At the heart of it, community ownership and their active participation are key to its sustainability.” ~ Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, 10th Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum, Hong Kong, November 2017

The Value of Heritage

Heritage is the sum total of our memories, experiences, records, artefacts and traditions that we have inherited from our past. On a personal level, it contributes to who and what we are. On a collective level, it is responsible for how we came to be as a nation and as a people. Heritage also provides the building blocks for our nation-building efforts, and forms the foundation of what we can become.

Heritage plays a key role in building our national, community and personal identities, because it instils in us a sense of place and belonging, and expands the term “Singapore” beyond our geographical boundaries to encompass our way of life and a place we call home.

Heritage is also important because it brings together different groups of people from diverse backgrounds, such as families, seniors, youth and new citizens, and unites them through shared experiences. It encourages us to put ourselves in the shoes of those with different histories and cultures, and helps us to connect with others. It also reminds us of our ancestral heritage and our links to the region and the world. The result is a more empathetic and cohesive society.

These common threads and shared experiences, which could include the trying times we have endured, Singapore’s remarkable transformation, the physical changes to our living environment etc., can unite us in times of difficulty and make us more resilient as a nation. They can also inspire us and shape the ways we meet new challenges, and help us to adapt and survive as the world around us changes.