Left: Sahana Balasubrramaniam is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Arts) at Yale-NUS College. She is an NHB Scholar.
Right: Joshua Goh, a recipient of the NHB Scholarship and a fan of Tintincomics, is currently pursuing a Master of Artsin History at the National University of Singapore.
When the word ‘heritage' is mentioned, many Singaporeans have a vague impression of grand, ornate, colonial edifices,” says Joshua Goh, an NHB Scholar, when asked about his organisation. However, contrary to perception, the National Heritage Board (NHB) is neither ornate nor colonial. Although, it is most definitely grand, especially in scope and character.
NHB is the custodian of Singapore's heritage. It maintains and preserves over 73 historical sites, eight museums, and the National Collection, which features more than 100,000 artefacts from our history. Added to that are its efforts in education and enrichment. Collectively, the government statutory board offers a rich palette of work environments steeped in culture and colour.
Appreciating the endeavours of the NHB are Joshua and his fellow scholar, Sahana Balasubrramaniam. The duo share with BrightSparks, their respective journeys with the organisation and how working at NHB has deepened their connection with Singapore.
Sahana always knew she wanted a career related to the arts. “One distinct moment was when my secondary school Tamil teacher made us read epics and novels from India,” she recounts. “It not only got me interested in the field of literature, but it also got me thinking about how heritage and language are intimately linked in the course of our cultural history.”
From there, she began to search for a career that would give her space and flexibility to explore her passion and interest. The NHB Scholarship, which supports individuals up to master's-level study in any one of seven humanities related majors, fit the bill.
Joshua has similar reasons to embark on a career with NHB. “I have always enjoyed the study of the past,” he smiles. “A chance opportunity to pursue an internship with NHB during my undergraduate days made me aware of the importance of marrying my academic knowledge with the work that is currently being done to build awareness and pride in our past.
“I hope to continue to bring more light to the shared practices, cultures, memories, and spaces which we collectively hold dear, and which makes us who we are as Singaporeans.”
A Future, Fuelled by the Past
While they are intrigued by Singapore's history, Sahana and Joshua are optimistic about their respective futures with NHB.
“The heritage scene in Singapore caters to diverse interests and will only continue to burgeon in the coming years,” Joshua declares confidently. He feels that with the advent and accessibility of geospatial technology as well as augmented/virtual reality, more young people in Singapore will be keen to connect with the country's heritage and past.
Most definitely, Joshua wants to be at the forefront of NHB's new initiatives. For now, he is currently pursuing Master of Arts in History at the National University of Singapore, which will give him a solid foundation for a career in heritage research, curatorial work or policy making.
In Sahana's case, she wants to acquire more academic knowledge so that she can contribute more significantly at NHB. “I would like to further my academics and pursue a master's degree and hopefully a PhD in the near future,” she says.
She is also quick to highlight the job diversity in NHB. “There is no shortage of opportunities to find a role well-suited to your strengths and interests in NHB,” she enthuses. “NHB provides a broad range of professional pathways that allow me to contribute my expertise in furthering our efforts to promote Singapore's culture and heritage.”
Sahana elaborates: “I challenged myself to undergo a marketing and communications internship with the National Museum of Singapore. Even though it was only for a few months, I was able to experience how marketing, programming and content creation worked in tandem to create a greater awareness of our local heritage. I don't think I would have been able to get this opportunity anywhere else.”
Our Unique Heritage
Both scholars know first-hand that what NHB offers is unique. “For students of the humanities, NHB is one of the rare organisations where you get the chance to pursue a career which allows you to harness and apply the content knowledge you have acquired in school,” Joshua explains.
“In fact, as a future professional in the heritage scene, you will be able to play a part to bridge the gap between developments in academia and popular interests arising from the public sphere.”
Sahana brings up another aspect of the NHB Scholarship that cannot be found anywhere else. “The opportunities that come with the NHB scholarship are truly beneficial in understanding the cultural and heritage landscape in Singapore,” she says encouragingly.
“I would recommend those who are interested in this field to apply as because it provides support and exposure to working in the heritage sector, and as an undergraduate student, the scholarship helps shape your college journey into a holistic and meaningful one.”
Safeguarding Singapore's history is not a dry and dusty toil, but a bright and colourful future filled with possibility, as these scholars show.