Step out to learn about Singapore's heritage

PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's activities and highlights during Singapore's Golden Jubilee last year will continue well into 2016.


The Singapore Botanic Gardens clinched the prestigious Unesco World Heritage Site title last July.

Then Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who was in Germany to bring home the first such accolade for the nation, described the title as a timely Jubilee gift in the lead-up to Aug 9 last year.

The Botanic Gardens qualified for the title based on its historical landscape and having played a role in the "interchange of human values".

Home to more than 10,000 species of plants, it is a place of research and conservation. It is also home to heritage trees and buildings. Even with the coveted Unesco status in the bag, improvements and expansion at the Gardens are afoot.

A part of the Learning Forest in the Tyersall area is slated to open later this year.

Visitors can also look forward to upgrades at the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden and the National Orchid Garden as well as a new ethnobotany garden and heritage exhibitions.


The first-ever nationwide heritage survey, aimed at putting together an inventory of Singapore's built heritage, was launched last year and will continue this year.

The two-year study aims to help the authorities develop a broad understanding of Singapore's heritage landscape for the purpose of long-term heritage planning.

The survey will study places of architectural, historical, cultural, social or educational significance, and include sites or structures completed in or before 1980. There are two parts to the survey.

The first involves "desktop research" that will tap maps, newspaper records, archival material and other publications to consolidate data about a place.

The second involves fieldwork that will document and photograph the geographical coordinates, typology and physical condition of the structure or site.

The National Heritage Board (NHB) will share its findings with the Urban Redevelopment Authority for land planning purposes. This includes the 10-year Concept Plan and the five-year Master Plan.

Work has also started on a survey on the country's intangible heritage, encompassing cultural activities and traditional trades or businesses. Those in the heritage community have welcomed the survey.

They say it will help the authorities make more informed decisions.

Singapore Heritage Society president Chua Ai Lin said the survey indicates that the Government is taking a more holistic view of heritage beyond tangible architectural structures.

"NHB is broadening its criteria to involve the intangible such as cultures, languages and dialects which bring meaning to these tangible sites. This makes it a more holistic interpretation of what is important in our city," she said.


Covering more than 20 landmarks, an 8km Jubilee Walk was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in November last year.

The commemorative trail, which weaves the past, present and future of the Singapore story, begins at the historic National Museum and ends at the Marina Barrage.

It includes stops such as Fort Canning Park where traces of an ancient Malay kingdom, the British empire's bunkers, and gravestones of Singaporean pioneers lie.

Other highlights include the newly minted national monument, the Fullerton Hotel, which was completed in 1928 and once housed the Chamber of Commerce, the Singapore Club and various government offices.

Those keen to experience the walk can join weekend tours organised by Singapore Footprints, which is a group of Nanyang Technological University tourism and hospitality undergraduates.

The Singapore Footprints Walking Tour features similar landmarks as the Jubilee Walk.

One of the project directors, Ms Lian Xiu Qin, 22, said more Singaporeans have joined their trail since the Jubilee Walk was launched.

"The walk benefits both locals and visitors who would like to learn more about Singapore even after our SG50 celebrations," she said.

The National Heritage Board is expected to release registration details for guided tours of the Jubilee Walk on its website on Saturday.

This article was first published on Jan 7, 2016.
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