It is often said we should not live in the past – yet the past is the place where memories were created and valuable lessons learned. It is precisely this that makes the past worth remembering, and also the reason that the passionate individuals at National Heritage Board (NHB) have risen to the task of both preserving and celebrating Singapore’s rich history.
As the custodian of our heritage, NHB manages national museums, heritage institutions, national monuments as well as heritage trails and festivals. Its role is broad and diverse as it seeks to collect, protect and promote Singapore’s shared stories for the generations to come. Scholars Lynn Chua, who is currently a Conservation Scientist with NHB, and Arthur Tan, who is an undergraduate at Cambridge University, share about their contributions and aspirations to curating Singapore’s heritage.
Lynn Chua Hui Ru
Why did you apply for the NHB scholarship?
Lynn: I first became interested when I was working at NHB as an assistant conservator. Then, my main responsibility was to conserve paintings before displaying them in the museums and my work exposed me to many interesting conservation phenomena. When NHB gave me an opportunity to intern with a conservation scientist at the V&A museum, London, I jumped at the opportunity and became even more intrigued with the microscopic world of heritage materials. I was inspired to develop a career in conservation science and applied for the NHB scholarship to expand my knowledge in the field.
Arthur: I was attracted to the unique opportunity to be involved in NHB’s efforts as custodian of our shared heritage, and contribute to preserving the rich tapestry of individual stories and collective memories. I believe that heritage forms an essential part of our social fabric, our sense of community and thus our everyday lives. I felt a career with NHB would enable me to play a role in developing forward-looking and innovative approaches that can enhance our vibrant heritage eco-system.
What type of career opportunities does NHB offer?
Lynn: As a staff of NHB you have the opportunity to progress your career in either the managerial track or the specialist track. NHB places strong emphasis on continuous learning and career development, and as you progress in your career you will recognise the suite of development programmes that support your career goals, in the form of training grants, scholarships and training programmes. As a conservation specialist I have been given the valuable learning opportunity to learn from the experts at renowned conservation institutes and museums through overseas training attachments.
Arthur: There are a broad range of career pathways and diverse experiences that you will be exposed to – including but not limited to historical research, education and community outreach initiatives, conservation, museum curatorship and festival planning – plenty of opportunities to find a role that suits your strengths and interests. In addition, the increasing dynamism and diversity of our cultural sector makes it an exciting time to join NHB as the organisation is primed to explore new dimensions and approaches to heritage preservation and development.
Arthur Tan Hui Ming
NHB Undergraduate Scholar
Bachelor of Arts, History & Politics, University of Cambridge University, United Kingdom
How has NHB helped you achieve your career aspirations?
Lynn: With the NHB scholarship, I was able to further my studies in conservation science. The two-year postgraduate study was customised to fit my specific learning needs. As a research student, I learnt the various scientific techniques used to study painted artworks. I collaborated with conservators at the Art Gallery of New South Wales to analyse painted ethnographic object and interned at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where I conducted scientific research on Japanese prints and painted outdoor sculptures. These research projects provided me with the perfect training ground and practical experiences to equip me for my role as a conservation scientist today.
Arthur: The NHB scholarship has enabled me to pursue my academic interests in history while exposing me to other cultures and forms of cultural expression. I have also benefited from meeting with fellow culture enthusiasts within and outside of NHB.
Any words for aspiring NHB scholars?
Lynn: You will find NHB is like family. A family that consists of unique, passionate individuals who are valued and recognised for what we do. Mentorship, learning and sharing are fundamental to NHB and the work culture here inspires people to collaborate, be creative, and improve to be better each day.
Arthur: I have had the pleasure of meeting people with interests and backgrounds as diverse as investment banking and photography, all of whom are now actively involved with heritage. Everyone finds something different within Singapore’s rich cultural landscape which excites them, so be clear and genuine about what your motivations and interests are, and consider how they align with or contribute to NHB’s multifaceted approaches to heritage.
I’ve also found that the time which I had spent working with heritage organisations and as a volunteer guide for national monument tours have been instrumental in helping me acquire a deeper understanding of the heritage industry and how I can contribute to it. As such, I also encourage anyone thinking about applying to NHB to step outside the classroom and seize hands-on opportunities for being involved in the local cultural scene.