Vignettes of S'pore history

Vignettes of S'pore history
Miss Noor Fadilah Yusof, 28, a registrar of Archives Services, handling a volume of the Straits Settlements records in the Archives Reading Room

Have you ever wondered what life in Singapore was like in the past?

Miss Noor Fadilah Yusof, 28, knows better than most. She is a registrar with the National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

But that does not mean she spends her days cooped up in a dusty room.

Miss Fadilah helps facilitate public access to archival records at the Archives Reading Room (ARR), at the National Archives of Singapore building at Canning Rise. These include photographs, audiovisual recordings and oral history interviews.

She also helps to digitise old photographs and handwritten documents. This is to minimise the handling of these items, for long-term preservation.

"I have always had an interest in Singapore's history and heritage," she said with a smile.

This passion led her to take up history as an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Her thesis was on the cultural promotion of Singapore's merger with then Malaya in 1963. The ARR became her frequent research haunt.

Today, she works hard to help others conduct their academic work.


"Although some people may consider history boring, I come across historical records that still surprise me every day," said Miss Fadilah.

She cited a motorbike Grand Prix in 1964 and a rugby match in 1967 as examples. Photographs of both events can be found on the newly-launched online portal by NAS.

The portal aims to tap on the collective memories of the public, particularly for photographs that have little or no accompanying descriptions.

"There are many sides to history. By allowing people to contribute, we can find out more details and see different perspectives," she said, adding that this can enhance our understanding of historical records.

There is something for everyone on the portal, such as arts, sports or elections.

In total, there are over 140,000 photographs and about one million pages of handwritten manuscripts to be uploaded. So far, 3,000 in each category can be found online.

After the photographs have been captioned and the manuscripts transcribed, they will eventually be uploaded on Archives Online, a public database. The descriptions will make them easily searchable.

In the first of a series of photo The New Paper is featuring from the archives, we are showcasing the housing conditions of post-war Singapore. Some of them have no captions.

So if they trigger fond memories for you or if you are familiar with what is being shown in these pictures, contribute to the archives by logging on to The Citizen Archivist Project website and caption them there.

This article was first published on April 6, 2015.
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