Monday, August 13, 2012

Memory project draws 300,000 submissions

A YEAR-OLD project to get people to submit their personal vignettes of life, from the past or present, has drawn 300,000 contributions.
But this is just a fraction - 6per cent - of the Singapore Memory Project's aim of amassing five million submissions by 2015.
Project director Gene Tan is unfazed. He is instead looking at the lessons learnt along the way and changing tack to push the right buttons that will get people reminiscing.
"I am confident," he said. "The past year has been more of a social experiment to find out what makes Singapore tick... The culture of memory is an investment in our future."
The National Library Board (NLB), which is spearheading the project, has the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts as a partner in the drive to gather stories, which can be submitted via:

Mr Tan said the project team has learnt that it cannot simply wait for contributions to come in via the Singapore Memory portal. It may be a great place to store memories, "but to collect them, we really need to go to where the conversations are", he said.
This was made clear when a photograph of LionsXII coach and former footballer V.Sundramoorthy's signature bicycle kick was posted on Facebook. Over the next three days, the photo triggered a frenzy of 8,000 postings.
Netizens aside, Mr Tan hopes to engage, in particular, those with memories of what it was like in Singapore between 1945 and 1975. Referring to them as the cha kia generation - cha kia being the Hokkien term for the red wooden clogs worn in the backyards of homes in that era - he said: "They were eyewitnesses of Singapore as we developed into a nation. Their personal memories will supplement what is in our history books."
To reach these people, who would be in their late 50s and older, the NLB will launch a series of roadshows in the heartland.
So far, three have been held in Toa Payoh, Yuhua and Punggol.
He said: "The elderly have a lot of memories they are eager to share. The resistance is not there. But we do need to reach out to them."
A drive among youth groups to document the story of the nation has spawned independent online groups such as RediscoverSG and Before We Forget.
The Singapore Memory Project has since roped them in as partners.
Most memories hark back to specific moments.
Civil servant Jacky Tan, 41, sent in photographs of his father's old tricycle, from which he sold traditional kueh tu tu in Chinatown. "Such mobile stalls are no longer seen, but are a fond memory for many Singaporeans," he said.
Human resources coordinator Petrina Edema, 46, has submitted a memory of Van Kleef Aquarium, which she visited with her family. "I remember the huge tank with a shark right at the back, which I was both in awe of and fearful of," she said.
The aquarium closed in 1991.
She said the Singapore Memory Project was about sharing experiences across generations: "My kids may not be able to visit the aquarium themselves, but at least this is a way to ensure some form of continuity."
Additional reporting by Goh Shi Ting

Background story
It is about shared experiences across generations. My kids may not be able to experience it themselves, but at least this is a way to ensure some form of continuity.
- Human resources coordinator Petrina Edema, on sharing a memory of Van Kleef Aquarium, which she visited with her family