The Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman temple in Toa Payoh can trace its roots to the 1860s, when it was a resting spot in the Orchard area for Indian plantation workers and dhobis (washermen). It then evolved into a place for Hindus to pray and sing devotional songs.
This nugget of historical information, part of the Toa Payoh heritage trail, is one of thousands that online users can uncover in a new Web portal launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB) yesterday.
Called Roots.sg, the site is a mammoth repository of information on more than 120,000 cultural treasures and historical artefacts from the national collection.
It also includes 85 heritage trails, 72 national monuments, and about 1,000 heritage resources such as research papers and activity sheets.
The portal "presents heritage resources in a much more dynamic manner", Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng told Parliament. "Whether you are a serious researcher, or just a curious young student, Roots.sg will provide a new dimension for you to explore and learn more about our history and heritage," he added.
Produced by NHB's digital team, it was budgeted in 2014 as part of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's digital engagement strategy. It took seven months and cost about $400,000 to piece together. It is targeted at educators and the general public.
The senior manager of NHB's digital team, Mr Shaun Wong, said the portal is one way to better showcase the historic gems under its care. For instance, the team wove an early 19th-century painting from Tanjore, South India, of a dhobi and his wife, into the write-up of the Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman temple.
NHB's existing website, which draws about 300,000 views annually, will now be its corporate site.
Overall, the board chalked up a digital reach of more than 3.07 million views across its digital platforms, including its museum websites and social platforms, last year.
During the debate on the ministry's budget, Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC) raised the importance of implementing heritage impact assessments. Minister Grace Fu said NHB adopts a "calibrated and sensitive approach" to balance heritage preservation and development needs. The assessment frameworks of several countries were studied but these were not fully applicable to Singapore, she added.
"We have decided not to adopt such frameworks wholesale at this point of time, but to evolve an approach suited to our local context."
She also said NHB will be able to identify Singapore's heritage assets and better advise on their historical significance when the nationwide survey on the country's tangible heritage is done by mid-2017.