Potter around the National Archives of Singapore's website, and visitors will discover such quirky gems as an interview in Cantonese with a samsui woman, English language conversations with ordinary people who survived the Japanese Occupation, and musicians' memories of bangsawan, a traditional Malay opera. Such archival recordings are a vivid reminder that while history books tend to focus on the deeds of the great and the good, the tapestry of a nation is woven from the warp and weft of countless ordinary lives.
The Archives is a rich repository of the nation's memories, and, literally, pieces of its history in the form of photographs and documents. So it is apt that in this bicentennial year, when Singaporeans are being encouraged to deepen their knowledge of the nation's history, the Archives has got a much-overdue upgrade. The refurbished building, which opened last week, boasts a restored scallop-shaped veranda and new facilities such as oral history studios and an expanded cinema space. The spit and polish has been directed at its physical premises, but the Archives has been steadily digitising its resources, making its treasures more accessible for the interested layman.