Living history with ST exhibition

The story of The Straits Times began on a humble note, before it became one of the region's most established English-language newspapers.

It started with a kind deed by Armenian merchant Catchick Moses, who bought a printing press from his friend Marterus Thaddeus Apcar, who had gone bankrupt.

He was unsure what to do with his new press, and was persuaded to use it to set up a newspaper.

So, quite by accident, the first issue of The Straits Times appeared on July 15, 1845.

Fast forward 170 years, and the broadsheet has endured the times. It has seen world wars, changes in political leadership, technology and even its own name.

At one point, in 1858, the paper was known as Singapore Daily News, before the name was scrapped in 1883.

The newspaper will tell the Singapore story through an exhibition of its stories and photographs that opens on Friday at the ArtScience Museum, as part of celebrations to mark its 170th year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will today officially launch the exhibition, called Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow.

The exhibition will be open to the public from Friday to Oct 4, and is the first one at the museum that is free to the public throughout its entire duration of 11 weeks.

At a press launch yesterday, ST editor Warren Fernandez said the paper had "survived and thrived" through the years of change. "It saw wave upon wave of technological change, from the telegraph, the telephone, the television, and now the Internet," he said. "This is a story not just of the history of The Straits Times, but also the history of Singapore as told by the pictures and pages of this newspaper."

"We have had a lot of focus on SG50," he added, pointing to celebrations to mark Singapore's golden jubilee this year. "This exhibition pulls back the lens and showcases the last 50 years, set against a longer history."

The six-member curatorial team behind it comprises Straits Times Press general manager Susan Long, the newspaper's picture editor Stephanie Yeow, chief photographer Joyce Fang, arts correspondent Huang Lijie, ArtScience Museum executive director Honor Harger and curator Julia Vasko.

CapitaLand is its presenting sponsor. Standard Chartered Bank is a gold sponsor and Best Denki is the equipment sponsor.

Ms Harger said: "As you walk through the pages of the newspaper... you'll find the genesis of ideas and policies which have become so familiar to us today."

These include principles of egalitarianism and meritocracy, she said.

Instead of going by chronological order, the exhibition gives visitors a taste of Singapore through themes, according to the sections of this newspaper.

The first stop is the Business gallery, reminiscent of The Straits Times' origins as a paper that started off with reporting on commerce here and the region.

Photographs and news about Standard Chartered Bank are featured in the gallery, from its opening in 1859 here to being the first merchant bank here in 1970.

Mr Neeraj Swaroop, chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore, said it was proud to be a part of the exhibition.

He said: "While we are headquartered in London, we employ about six times the number of people in Singapore than we do in London; so for us, Singapore is kind of home."

The Home section features reports on housing, education, transport, defence, health and environment issues.

The World gallery charts Singapore's relationships with the world, from being a British colony to joining Malaysia.

Sports highlights include initiatives such as the Great Singapore Workout, a nationwide aerobic routine in 1993, while Life looks at food, fashion and the arts.

Forum, the last gallery, showcases ideas for the future, a result of CapitaLand's crowdsourcing campaign earlier this year. Many ideas in this gallery involve using technology to meet needs such as housing and transport.

Mr Lim Ming Yan, president and group chief executive of CapitaLand, said it wanted to hear from Singaporeans their "dreams and aspirations for the future".

Ms Harger added: "This is a nation that always has one eye on the future. It's very appropriate that we end the exhibition in the future."


This article was first published on July 15, 2015.
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