67 patrons honoured for supporting heritage causes

Patrons, such as Ms Mavis Toh (far left) of Lee Hwa Jewellery and Ms Esther Loo of Tai Sun (Lim Kee) Food Industries, were given reproductions of watercolour drawings from the National Museum's William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings.
Patrons, such as Ms Mavis Toh (far left) of Lee Hwa Jewellery and Ms Esther Loo of Tai Sun (Lim Kee) Food Industries, were given reproductions of watercolour drawings from the National Museum's William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

They contributed artefacts and cash donations worth $5.5m last year

A mahjong table and four chairs in the Cantonese blackwood style, kebayas and old photographs are some of the many donations that prominent Peranakan scholar Peter Lee and his family have made to museums in Singapore.

Yesterday, Mr Lee was one of nearly 70 recipients of the National Heritage Board's (NHB's) Patron of Heritage Awards 2017.

The annual award, in its 12th year, recognises individuals and organisations that have contributed to heritage causes. Last year, NHB received artefacts and cash donations worth $5.5 million in total from 67 individuals and groups.

These patrons were recognised at an awards ceremony at the National Museum, where Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu presented them with digitised reproductions of watercolour drawings from the National Museum's William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings.

Mr Lee's family's mahjong table and chairs set, adorned with flora and fauna motifs in mother-of-pearl inlay, dates back to the first half of the 20th century and was most likely made in Guangdong, China. Mr Lee's late mother, Mrs Elizabeth Lee, bought it from a shop in Singapore and used it for mahjong from the mid-1970s until her death in 2015.

Mr Lee donated it to the Asian Civilisations Museum last year as "a nice tribute in memory of her".

More recently, Mr Lee's family donated more than 2,500 photos of Peranakans across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar to the Peranakan museum for the Amek Gambar exhibition.

"I'm really pleased that the collecting mission (of the NHB) has broadened significantly," Mr Lee added. "Increasingly, there is an understanding that artefacts from our neighbours also build up our understanding of ourselves."

Ms Fu highlighted the contributions of several donors in her speech.

The family of collectors Frank and Pamela Hickley, for instance, donated a collection of Chinese and Vietnamese blue-and-white export porcelain wares from the 15th to 19th centuries to the Asian Civilisations Museum. The late couple had previously given their collection of blanc de Chine porcelain to the museum in 2000.

Meanwhile, Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall received a loan of a personal seal and two pocket watches from Ms Pauline Tan Wyatt.

The watches belonged to her late father, Hokkien merchant Tan Chor Lam, one of the founders of the Tong Men Hui (Chinese Revolutionary Alliance) in Singapore.

Home-grown nuts and chips brand Tai Sun (Lim Kee) Food Industries donated cash and food to festivals including the Children's Season Singapore and Wan Qing Festival. Ms Esther Loo, the third-generation scion of the company, said they wanted to support events that encouraged people to spend more time with their families.

Ms Mavis Toh, the business director of Lee Hwa Jewellery, which donated money to the National Museum from the sale of limited edition bangles, said: "We are excited and happy to be part of the museum's efforts to preserve Singapore stories... It would be great if the younger generation played a more active role in getting to know our history."

Ms Fu told the donors: "It is with your support that our museums have been able to present artefacts that allow us to discover ourselves, Singapore and the world we live in.

"Our shared heritage is an important anchor to strengthening our cohesion, resilience and identity as a nation... This would in turn lay a strong foundation for our future and allow us to seize opportunities to progress and prosper as a nation."

Correction note: The headline of the story has been corrected.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline '69 patrons honoured for supporting heritage causes'. Print Edition | Subscribe