NHB to seek regular input on heritage initiatives with help of new youth panel

NHB's inaugural youth advisory panel, (from left) Seraphina Tham, Koh Hong Kai, Ahmad Hasif Bin Mohammad Amran, Dupindeerjeet Kaur and Harrick Koh. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

SINGAPORE - To attract younger audiences to its programmes and exhibitions, the National Heritage Board (NHB) has, for the first time, set up a youth panel that advises it on how to make its offerings more youth-friendly.

Launched in mid-2021, the inaugural panel comprises 16 students and working adults aged between 20 and 32.

It is tasked to review and advise NHB's institutions and divisions on exhibitions, festivals and programmes, offer advice on marketing strategies, as well as contribute content to NHB's social media platforms and participate in youth-led projects should opportunities arise.

These terms of reference were decided after NHB studied the objectives and duties of similar panels serving museums overseas, said NHB's deputy chief executive of policy and community Alvin Tan.

Case studies included the Geffrye Museum's Youth Advisory Panel and the Horniman Youth Panel in the United Kingdom, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia's Youth Committee.

Mr Tan said NHB started the panel to engage youth more pro-actively and to target a key group of museumgoers more effectively with its assistance.

NHB's estimates show that from 2018 to 2020, youth account for about 40 per cent of visitors to its institutions.

The inaugural panel's members were chosen from a pool of volunteers that had previously worked with NHB on various projects, as well as based on recommendations from institutes of higher learning and the National Youth Council.

Mr Tan said some non-frequent museumgoers were deliberately included in the panel so that a diverse range of perspectives and input could be canvassed, instead of hearing only from those with a strong interest in heritage.

Panel member Dupinderjeet Kaur, 25, who had previously contributed to the Indian Heritage Centre's Sikhs in Singapore exhibition, said she joined the panel to broaden her perspective on NHB's heritage preservation efforts and hopes to contribute based on her experiences as a member of a racial minority group.

Citing the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall's recent exhibition on the changing role of women in society, the Singapore Management University Juris Doctor student suggested that young people would be more attracted to programmes that combine social issues - such as women's empowerment in the memorial hall's exhibition - with heritage content.

The panel also suggested that programmes evoking feelings of nostalgia would be attractive to youth.

Panel member Ahmad Hasif Mohammad Amran, 23, said nostalgia was relatable as many young people long to be reminded of memories and items from their childhood.

"Youth aren't that young any more. The panel is mostly in our 20s, approaching adulthood, so we have a childhood to look back on and yearn for things that help us to relive fond memories from the past," added the Nanyang Technological University history undergraduate.

Fellow panel member Koh Hong Kai, 24, added that the appeal of nostalgia to today's youth could reflect a longing for familiarity amid a rapidly changing world, adding that he was grateful for the opportunity for youth voices to be heard.

Mr Koh, who studies history at the National University of Singapore, said: "Who else are you preserving heritage for but for the next generation? And who can best represent the next generation but the youth?"

Mr Tan said suggestions from the panel have been taken on board, such as advertising more on social media platforms frequented by youth such as Instagram.

The panel meets at least twice a year, and its two-year term will conclude in mid-2023.

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