App lets you share about local history

Two entrepreneurs here have launched a mobile phone application to help younger Singaporeans get in touch with the country's history.

The app, called Time Travellr, allows users to upload old photos tagged to locations in Singapore. The users are also encouraged to write short anecdotes that tell the story of the place. The app currently has old photos of Raffles Hotel from as far back as the 1800s, as well as other landmarks such as Fullerton Square and the National Museum.

App creators Calvin Soh, 46, and Saleem Jumabhoy, 48 - from the prominent real-estate Jumabhoy family - want to tell the people little-known stories from Singapore's formative years.

For instance, Scotts Road was named after a William Scott. He had owned property around present-day Scotts Road and was the harbour master and postmaster of Singapore in 1836. "My dad used to tell me that Mr Scott's grandson was (made a pariah) by the British because he married a local girl," said Mr Jumabhoy.

It is stories like these that both of them hope to preserve for future generations.

Mr Soh added that even though Singapore has progressed, the country has lost some of its character in becoming the First-World, ultra-modern metropolis that it is.

"The music scene and movie scene here used to be thriving, and there were bands playing live on radio every weekend in the Capitol Theatre," he said.

Government agencies have also come on board to support the venture, with both the National Heritage Board and National Library Board opening their archives for use in the app.

The duo are funding this venture with their own money although they declined to say how much funds have been used.

Time Travellr, which is being tested by some users, is currently only available for download on the iTunes App Store.

Said Mr Soh: "History in Singapore has always been written by people like Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr S. Rajaratnam, but it's also written by the little guy."

This article was published on Aug 13 in The Straits Times.

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