Our nation’s diverse heritage is something that connects us all together, one that belongs to all of us. Helping to preserve that shared heritage and celebrate the Singapore story is something that the National Heritage Board (NHB) is committed to doing. As the keeper of Singapore’s heritage, NHB’s mission is to manage the national museums and heritage sites and institutions, connecting the past, present, and future generations of Singaporeans.
NHB Scholars, Samuel Lee, 26, and Grace Huang, 20, have a passion towards arts and culture, and aspire to enrich the sharing of the nation’s heritage. We checked in with them to find out more about their scholarship journey so far.
NHB Scholarship (Undergraduate)
Bachelor of Arts (English)
– National University of Singapore
A Golden Opportunity
The NHB scholarship is one of the few scholarship opportunities available for culture enthusiasts in Singapore. For Grace, it was the perfect opportunity to pursue a career in heritage-related work, something which has always resonated strongly within her. “I have always thought of our heritage as something to be treasured and to find joy in. From the time I first visited a museum with my parents as a child, I wanted very much to be part of a place where visitors could learn so much about different histories, cultures, and peoples. I believe strongly in NHB’s work in maintaining and promoting local heritage as it allows us to embrace the shared history that all of us have as Singaporeans,” she shares with great enthusiasm.
“After my undergraduate studies in English literature, I became interested in pursuing graduate work in the history of art for a career in museums, particularly in public institutions.” Samuel says. He echoes a belief that heritage, culture, and the arts form the backbone of society, capturing a snapshot of the hopes and aspirations of a nation at a point in time and passing on that knowledge to future generations. “The scholarship was attractive to me as NHB encourages its recipients to identify and develop their personal interests in relevant areas of study as a full-time profession.”
Encouraging Growth And Learning
For Samuel, the NHB scholarship represents a point-of-entry into a career in cultural and heritage institutions. Aside from supporting his interest in nineteenth century art, the scholarship has given Samuel many opportunities to develop his competencies through the help of mentors within the organisation, many of whom are pioneers and visionaries in their line of work. He adds, “There’s also a curiosity and independence of thought that is expected of everyone, which allows productive challenges to take place at a pace conducive for professional and personal growth.”
One of the highlights of Samuel’s scholarship so far is the opportunity to study the Java Sea Wreck collection and the Cyrus Tang Hall of Chinese Art exhibition, both at the Field Museum in Chicago, as part of his coursework at the University of Chicago. “From both projects, I learnt about the curatorial and communicative strategies involved in producing a storyline that is simplified enough for visitors and casual museum-goers to enjoy and learn from, while retaining opportunities for nuance to emerge from extended interaction with the exhibition.”
When asked what the working culture at NHB is like, Grace has this to share, “All the people I have met have always been accommodating, patient, and extremely encouraging of any questions. There is also a sense of excellence present in the work that NHB produces. These make for a fruitful working environment where you are constantly learning and growing.”
NHB Scholarship (Postgraduate)
Master of Arts in Humanities (Art History)
– University of Chicago, USA
Her aspirations for the future parallel NHB’s mission? “I am eager to be involved in work that puts me in contact with different communities. I believe that everyone should be able to enjoy the fun of learning in museums and I hope to be a part of ensuring these experiences are accessible to all.”
Connecting Past And Future
On what aspiring scholars looking to pursue a scholarship with NHB can expect, Grace emphasises the benefit of being able to pursue their passion for the arts and heritage as a career. “You can expect a dynamic and rewarding career as the organisation is moving into a new phase with the SG Heritage Plan. You’ll also work in a positive environment where you can contribute to shaping the society. It’s not just a job, but also a constant journey of learning.”
She adds, “It is very important to always keep in mind that you are working for the larger community and that the wonderful thing about what you do in NHB is that it is larger than yourself. Show that you are enthusiastic about heritage and try to be engaged in some way in the arts so that you can determine how you can personally contribute to the organisation and its goals.”
Chiming in, Samuel concludes with a gem of wisdom: “Culture is a mix of material and social practices that are never fully tangible or intangible, and the idea of conceiving of a shared heritage in our context requires careful thought about stewardship, representation, and inclusivity. The task of anyone in this line of work is to create situations—whether through public programming, exhibitions, festivals and so on—that are sensitive to these thoughts while enabling their intended audience to take away something lasting or personally meaningful. I think those undertaking this scholarship should be willing to read beyond your subject of expertise and engage in a wide range of conservations with those in other areas of artistic and cultural production in order to make the most of your privileged role.”