Old photos capture a slice of heritage

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran and Mrs Gretchen Liu, the daughter-in-law of artist Liu Kang, looking at items her family contributed to the National Library and National Archives of Singapore.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran and Mrs Gretchen Liu, the daughter-in-law of artist Liu Kang, looking at items her family contributed to the National Library and National Archives of Singapore.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

NOL and artist Liu Kang's family among donors feted for contributions to archives

Old photos of Madam Kwa Geok Choo, the late wife of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, at the christening ceremony of the Neptune Ruby in 1972 captures the tradition of women christening ships.

It also showcases a slice of maritime heritage.

Built by Jurong Shipyard, the Neptune Ruby was the first ocean-going vessel built in Singapore. Before that, it had only constructed small coastal and patrol vessels.

The photos, contributed by Neptune Orient Lines, make up 18,000 items which were freshly donated by the community to the National Library and National Archives of Singapore over the past year.

Both the library and the archives hosted a donor appreciation dinner yesterday. Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, who officiated at the event - his first engagement in his new role - said that as Singapore commemorates its bicentennial next year, he hopes "more Singaporeans and community organisations will come forward and share" their histories.

He said both the library and archives have been charged with the important mission of collecting and preserving Singapore's heritage and have gone about this with great care and perseverance.

He added: "To me, I think this takes on specific significance as we look at next year... It is an opportunity to take stock of our identity as Singaporeans and the journey that we have travelled as a country, as a community, as a society.

"And these individual and collective memories, I think, make a very important and precious part of the heritage."

The bulk of the contributions this round came from the family of the late pioneer local artist Liu Kang. They donated 7,330 items, including sketches, prints, letters and photos. These provide deeper insight into his influences, worldviews and networks of contacts.

Other contributions include documents and records kept by the late Mrs Pamela Hickley who was the personal assistant to the last two colonial governors of Singapore, Sir William Goode and Sir Robert Black in the late 1950s.

It was donated by her god-daughter Dorothy Chan. Mrs Hickley died last June at the age of 98.

Other materials now in the library and archives' collections include manuscripts, radio-play scripts, maps and film reels of Singapore's places of interest from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Ms Chan, 57, a retiree, said: "I think the documents I donated form a good basis for research for anyone interested in that particular time of history as Singapore transitioned from colonial to independent government."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2018, with the headline 'Old photos capture a slice of heritage'. Print Edition | Subscribe