Ministry of Information,Communications and the Arts

Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim at When Nations Remember II: Friends of the Singapore Memory Project

Press Release   •   Nov 28, 2011 15:55 SGT

Mrs Elaine Ng, Chief Executive Officer, National Library Board,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.  

I am very pleased to be here at When Nations Remember II, following the success of the inaugural conference held last October. When Prime Minister Lee announced the Singapore Memory Project (SMP) during his National Day Rally earlier this year, we had only about 30,000 stories and memories. In slightly over three months, this has grown to more than 220,000 contributions. I hope we are on track to become a nation of storytellers. This tremendous increase in contributions is testimony to how this project has touched Singaporeans and all who feel a part of Singapore.  

I would also like to applaud the enthusiastic efforts of all our partners – more than 90 academic, research and library institutions, heritage agencies, public agencies, private entities and community organisations; almost 100 volunteers, our Memory Corps, who come from all walks of life; as well as members of the public who contributed directly to the www.iremember.sg website who made this possible. The range and diversity of partnerships reflect wide community participation and ownership.   

In particularly, we are grateful for the strong support and assistance extended to us by our Memory Corps who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes. By selflessly giving your time, playing roles from curator to connector, you have made the wider collection of memories possible. I understand that later on, Memory Corps Lai Tuck Chong and Low Jiaxin will be sharing with us their experience in documenting the memories of a group of water heritage pioneers. Water is something that is close to my heart. Six PUB staff from the former Water Treatment Plants in Johor were interviewed when the duo went to Johor, and these are captured in a seven minute video which will be shown later. Certainly water is something that will touch all Singaporeans because water is something which we hold dear to our hearts; and in the seven years I have worked in the Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources, water is one of those things which I pay special attention to, not only because of it being a strategic resource, but because it is our survival. It must be one thing that we must continue to share – the memories we have with the younger generation – and to continue to tell these stories.  

Everyone Can Contribute

Earlier this year, the SMP team collaborated with RediscoverSG, who are four young Singaporeans passionate about chronicling life in Singapore, to gather stories on the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. The public responded positively to the irememberKTM initiative with their contributions of personal stories and photographs. Partners, like the Ministry of Education Heritage Centre and the Academy of School Teachers, also extended their support through the “iremembermySchoolDays” initiative, which gathered many school-day memories.  

Besides contributions from organisations and groups, the SMP team told me that we also have entries from abroad, all the way from the United Kingdom as well as Japan, with stories stretching from the 1930s to present day. For instance, Ms Fiona Hodgkins, who first came to Singapore from England in 1975 as a nine year old, shared her memories on growing up in Singapore during her early years, of learning to eat curry and visiting the Dutch club (as the British Club did not exist then) until her family left when she was 17 years old. There is also the story of Ms Wang Hui Ling, who is now residing in Japan, who shared her memories on the Hello Kitty craze in 2000, something that will be familiar to those of us who are young at heart.   

Sharing our memories with the generations to come

The SMP is not just about building a database of memories or stories. Each memory helps to add to the collective that enriches our understanding and experience of our past.   

I remember when I was a kid, we were issued with the POSB “Save At School” stamp card with empty boxes for pasting postage stamps, and we would use our savings to buy 5-cent or 10-cent stamps to paste onto the card. When we complete the card with 20 stamps, we will give it to the school which will send it in to the bank, and it adds to our savings account. Till today, I still have a POSB account. The SMP aims to do the same – for every Singaporean to start the habit of saving. But, in this case, we are saving our memories and depositing them into a shared memory bank for ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and for others to enjoy, and more importantly, to enrich their lives.  

I encourage all to come forward to share memories of Singapore. We look forward to everyone’s support to achieve the target of collecting 5 million memories by 2015.   

Launch of PictureSG

Today, we are launching PictureSG - an online collection of images, whether artworks or photographs, showcasing the socio-cultural and historical development of Singapore. I think this is a wonderful initiative by NLB, because pictures say a thousand words. With this, the public can now share his image, include a description or even add a tag to it, so that people can understand and appreciate the image. Like the www.iremember.sg website, the SMP will insure this for posterity so that future generations can draw from these memory accounts and continue to be inspired by the stories of Singapore and her past.   

Today’s event shows that we care about everything that affirms our identity in Singapore, that we want to do our part to recollect for posterity what we remember. These efforts will draw us closer together as a nation and leave a legacy for future generations.  

Thank you.