The Singapore Memory Project, which captures memories and moments related to the nation, has amassed more that 367,000 nuggets of history.
By Stella Danker
utograph books were all the rage in the 1950s when Philip Chew decided to get one himself, so that his friends could write something in it for him to remember them by.
But among the autographs Chew, who was then a student at Raffles Institution, managed to collect from friends and penpals, was one by a girl named Mary Ee penned on Nov 2, 1952.
It read: “It’s good to be smart. And it’s a good thing to be strong. But it is still a better thing to keep your promise to the end.”
To this day, it holds a special place in his heart. Chew said: “I never thought at that time that this girl would be my wife.” She was not even his girlfriend then, but the couple courted and later got married in 1962, a decade after she wrote in his autograph book.
This is among more than 367,000 moments and memories related to Singapore, documented as part of the Singapore Memory Project which was launched by the National Library Board in 2011.
The initiative is a nationwide movement to capture and document precious moments and personal memories related to Singapore from individuals as well as organisations, associations and companies. It aims to collect five million personal memories as well as a substantial number of published material on Singapore by 2015.
INTO THE HEARTLANDS
Some 180 volunteers collectively called the Memory Corps have run roadshows in the heartlands of older housing estates such as Bukit Merah, Paya Lebar, Kolam Ayer, Punggol, Tampines, Toa Payoh and Yuhua to help folks document their wealth of memories; find local personalities to share their memories, and uncover people who remember key Singapore events.
This project is driven by the Ministry of Communications and Information in partnership with entities such as academics and library institutions, public and private agencies, and community groups such as the Army Museum of Singapore and the Asian Film Archive.
It opened the floodgates for people who have seen phenomenal change in one generation, who have gone from living in atap huts without modern sanitation to being the nation builders of an island traversed by an intricate mass rapid transit and where people are served in cool comfort of solarpaneled government buildings like the Housing and Development Board.
Visit the Singapore Memory site (www.singaporememory.sg) and input a memory. Contributions can be in text, photographs, audio files or video format and are grouped according to their subject matter. Alternatively, a Memory application can be downloaded for free from the iTunes app store.
Among the popular categories in which these memories are documented are Food Nostalgia, and My School Days, which includes contributions from exteachers and students who reminisce their formative years.
The Food Nostalgia category is filled with photographs of delectable hawker fare. One contributor shared a picture of her favourite satay stall at Chomp Chomp Food Centre in Serangoon Gardens. “The peanut sauce has a very special fragrance to it, which I love to dip my satay into. It may not be the best satay in Singapore, but it certainly is my favourite,” she wrote.
There is also a popular category called I Remember KK, where contributors such as parents share fond memories of their children’s births at the KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital, formerly known as Kandau Kerbau Hospital. Medical staff also weigh in on what it was like to work there decades ago.
One contributor posted: “Though I was worried initially about how things will turn out, it was a great experience. I felt comfortable, coped with all the pain easily and went home happily.”
The Director of the National Library of Singapore, Gene Tan, said that response to the project has been “tremendous” especially in finding stories of those whose memories would not typically have been recorded.
“We are particularly moved by the memories we have collected of the pioneer generation of Singaporeans who have helped build this nation and transformed it into the metropolis we see today,” said Tan.
“This is a subtle and yet powerful way in which the experiences of generations can somehow be stitched together into a national tapestry of stories to be documented, preserved and cherished by generations to come.”
Recollections of previous Singapore Day events and stories of the Tanjong Pagar Railway are just some memories collected on the Singapore Memory website.