Memories are powerful reminders of who we are as individuals, members of a family, and citizens of a nation. Passed down through generations, such recollections are integral to the preservation of a family’s own heritage and legacy.
When recorded and archived, they serve as remembrances of a country’s past and history. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong illustrated this in his National Day Rally speech on 26 Aug 2012, when he shared personal anecdotes from his youth, and spoke on the importance of accumulating and collecting individual experiences for the telling of the Singapore Story. These memories form the soul of a nation and are the emotional ties that bind and celebrate us as one people.
It is on this poignant note that this issue of BiblioAsia invites us on a walk down memory lane, drawing together personal and collective memories and stories woven intext and images.
The lead feature Through his eyes: Remembering old Singapore through the poems of Edwin Thumboo goes back in time to a memorable past of Hock Lam Street, Bras Basah and Bukit Batok captured in literature. Documenting many once-familiar landmarks in Singapore’s social history, these place poems by Singapore’s pre-eminent poet “anchor our memories and identities” as a nation and a people.
MGS memories of 11 Mount Sophia takes us on a nostalgic tour of the Methodist Girls’ School (MGS), which turned 125 this year, through the reminiscences and anecdotes of former principals and students whose lives have been profoundly shaped by their experiences at MGS. The article allows us to revisit the scene as MGS students, staff and alumnae bid farewell to their old school site atop Mount Sophia.
The memories of former Rediffusion co-host, Mr Koh Eng Soon, transport us to a bygone era when the private radio station was a source of popular entertainment for many Singaporeans. Faithful listeners would tune in everyday to the dialect programmes, especially the radio dramas and storytelling. The station closed in April 2012 after a 63-year run, and might have vanished from the air waves had it not been saved by a former Rediffusion deejay.
In Saya dan Bulan Bahasa (The Malay Language Month and I), Malay language expert and Cultural Medallion recipient Muhammad Ariff Ahmad fondly recalls his experiences and active participation in the Malay Language Month since its inception in 1959. The National Library will be organising an exhibition in
December to show the impact that Ariff has had on the local literary scene.
In the family highlights the variety of resources available in the National Library to trace one’s family history. These include directories, Who’s who listings, clan association publications, school yearbooks, and news archives. Such materials supplement one’s own family resources such as photographs, birth certificates, letters, wills and other memorabilia.
We highlight two exhibitions in this issue, Money by mail to China: Dreams and struggles of early migrants, and iremember magazines. Also on display at the library is the exhibition on Raffles’ letters: Intrigues behind the founding of Singapore (www.facebook.com/SirStamfordRaffles), a rare collection of letters from the Bute Collection (Scotland) and the National Library, which we featured in the previous issue of
BiblioAsia. Come by and view some of these unique gems, many of which are on display for the first time to the public.
We hope this issue on memories will warm your hearts and inspire you to share your personal stories and recollections of yesteryear. You are welcome to contribute your memories to the Singapore Memory Project – a national initiative to collect 5 million memories by Singapore’s 50th year of independence in 2015.
Ms Ngian Lek Choh
Director, National Library