Key moments in life of S'pore, as seen through ST pictures

For decades, a black and white photo of 13-year-old Dutch girl Maria Hertogh clutching the waist of her Muslim foster mother has captured the imagination of thousands here.

In it, Aminah Mohamed stands aghast at the Supreme Court during a custody battle with the teenager's Dutch-Catholic biological parents in a case that went on to spark riots that left 18 people dead.

Shot on May 19, 1950 by a Straits Times photographer, the image has been reproduced in many history texts. And now, it is one of over 400 photos chronicling the defining moments in Singapore's post-war history to go on display at a new exhibition called We: Defining Stories.

Presented by The Straits Times and the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), the four-month free display at the museum's Exhibition Gallery 1 will feature photos from 1950 to 2013 from the paper's archives and the museum's collection.

Its aim, said NMS director Angelita Teo, is to present perspectives of local history and culture via the "powerful medium" of photography ahead of the nation's 50th birthday next year.

She said: "It's timely to look back at the cherished moments that have made us who we are; moments that were happy, sad, bittersweet and the ones which made us laugh and reflect."

Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez said: "Our reporters and cameramen were there at the scene of many of the critical moments in the life of our country.

"Their reports and images help take us back to those times, in an interesting and thought-provoking way in this exhibition."

Divided into six sections, it will cover significant events in the nation's history.

It will kick off with a section called Merdeka, the Malay word for freedom.

This features photos from pre- and post-independent Singapore, including incidents such as the Bukit Ho Swee fire which tore through the squatter homes of 16,000 residents on May 25, 1961.

This marked a turning point in the country's approach to modern public housing.

The second section, Home, showcases stories of Singapore's pioneer generation, who rolled up their sleeves to build a home.

The swearing-in of the first batch of national service recruits at the Kallang Manpower Headquarters in 1967 also features.

Later images detail the 1986 Hotel New World collapse and the 2003 Sars epidemic.

A segment on Singapore heroes features weightlifter Tan Howe Liang - our first Olympic medallist.

A section called So Singaporean shows photos of Singaporeans' behavioural quirks - such as the penchant for queueing.

The exhibition ends with a section called Our Stories, a multimedia display of about 100 other significant photos.

Straits Times readers will have the privilege of visiting the exhibition on April 26, a day before it officially opens.

They can pre-register for guided tours arranged under the Straits Times Appreciates Readers (Star) programme.

Registration details will be released later.

SEE THE SHOW

The Straits Times and the National Museum of Singapore will be co-presenting the exhibition called We: Defining Stories.

Featuring more than 400 photos from the paper's archives and the museum's collection, it will run from April 27 to Aug 31, from 10am to 6pm daily.

It will be held at the museum's Exhibition Gallery 1 and admission is free.

melodyz@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 11 in The Straits Times.

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