In mankind’s endless pursuit for progress, we are often too caught up with looking ahead, that we forget to look back at where we have come from. But as the old adage goes, “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
With this belief in mind, the NHB is dedicated to celebrating and preserving Singapore’s rich heritage and history. Through the various national museums and heritage institutions it manages, as well as its diverse range of heritage offerings such as our National Monuments, heritage trails and festivals, NHB safeguards and promotes our shared stories and memories as a nation, so that those after us will be able to enjoy and appreciate how far we have come.
Alexandra Tan and Miriam Yeo, both NHB Scholars, tell us all about how they are going to assist NHB in its mission to instil pride in our past, so that we can have a legacy for our future.
Why did you decide to apply for the NHB Scholarship?
Alexandra Tan: The NHB Scholarship stood out amongst others as a golden opportunity to enter the heritage industry in Singapore. I have always been a firm believer in the development of heritage – realising the shared history of our nation and the individual histories of Singaporeans – and its function in nation building. This still resonates with me and excites me about commencing work at the National Heritage Board.
Another aspect of this scholarship that appealed to me was the flexibility in the career paths that scholars can undertake within NHB. This ranges from conservation work, to public engagement initiatives, research and policy-oriented work, which all provide different avenues towards a common goal.
Miriam Yeo: Working with NHB appealed to me firstly because of my interest in research, history, and art. Furthermore, a career with NHB would allow me to play a part in shaping and improving society – through the sharing of cultural knowledge which impacts our communal understanding of our heritage.
Bachelor of Arts in History, London School of Economics, UK
Tell us about your scholarship opportunities as an undergraduate.
Alexandra: Through several summer internships I’ve done ever since I was awarded my scholarship in 2014, there have been many diverse opportunities to get acquainted with the job scope and work culture in NHB. I have interned at the Heritage Research and Assessment division, Strategic Planning division, and at the National Museum of Singapore so far. These internships encouraged me to translate my interest in heritage into concrete ideas, contextualise heritage in the landscape of Singapore, and think of ways to make heritage more accessible to everyone.
Miriam: As an NHB Scholar I have taken part in an internship with the Festivals and Programmes team in the summer of my first year, and I hope to secure another internship either abroad or back in Singapore this summer.
As an intern, I engaged in both the planning and execution of the Singapore Night Festival. I also met curatorial staff who told me about their work apart from the Night Festival, which was fascinating and deepened my understanding of what is involved in the work of a curator.
Bachelor of Arts in English, Cambridge University, UK
Share with us about some of the more memorable episodes you have had with NHB.
Alexandra: When I interned at the National Museum of Singapore, I worked with the organising team for the Singapore Night Festival in 2015. It was one of the most memorable and exhilarating experiences ever. I never thought that I would have the chance to work with both local and international artists to witness what goes on behind the scenes of a massive public event. But there I was, working side by side with all of them!
Miriam: There was once where I led an artist talk for a street theatre group that was performing in the Singapore Night Festival. They shared their performance philosophy – telling stories through physical theatre, acrobatics, and design. To them, performance is just a beautiful and artistic way of conveying emotion and experience. Their philosophy resonated with my hope for the arts and heritage scene in Singapore, where thoughts and truths can be communicated through the beauty and art of stories.
What should aspiring NHB scholars bear in mind as they apply for the scholarship?
Alexandra: I think I was conferred the NHB scholarship because of the enthusiasm I demonstrated towards the heritage industry in Singapore. For instance, I was a young docent as part of an extra-curricular programme in school and used this experience to reflect on how the meaning of our heritage could be conveyed to youths in exciting ways outside of the classroom.
It will be beneficial to think about how your personal experiences have piqued your interest in this area of work, even if it is something minor such as visiting museums or heritage sites over the weekend.
Miriam: Being an English Literature student, I was very surprised that NHB considered my application. It is an encouraging sign that NHB hopes to incorporate less traditional means of communicating heritage. Particularly with regard to NHB’s interest in exploring intangible heritage, having a team comprised of people schooled in a range of disciplines will only strengthen NHB’s approach to heritage in the future.
Consider how your strengths and passions align with NHB’s work and find out how you can contribute to the organisation.