Friday, October 15, 2010

Capturing Memories through blogs

This week Char Lee and I participated at the two-day When Nations Remember international conference where we jointly presented a paper and facilitated discussions on the topic, Capturing Memories through Blogs.

For my part, I did my usual ‘evangelistic’ pitch to persuade the audience to document their memories either through blogs or the NLB’s Singapore Memory Project. I reminded them of the two reasons which made this task urgent for us here in Singapore.

1) Places in Singapore have a way of disappearing overnight when you are not looking. They should thus ‘gather moments while you may’.

2) Many of our seniors and even baby boomers of my generation are passing away from the scene. In fact, even as I write this post, I learnt of the sad departure of former football star, Dollah Kassim. And I don’t just mean their physical departure. Many of the old folks could be losing their precious memories through old age and ill health.

I think my talk was generally well-received. Mr Gene Tan, the director of NLB’s Singapore Memory Project immediately announced that they were going to push ahead with their Seventies Project. That’s not a project about the 1970’s as I initially thought, but a project to interview Singaporeans who are in their seventies to capture their memories of the Singapore of old.

I was particularly proud and happy that the man who helped put me on a career in Industrial Engineering and subsequently in Productivity, my lecturer in varsity and final year project supervisor, Dr N Varaprasad, was sitting in the front row.

As for Char Lee, he shared about the methodology he adopted in investigating his subject matter. And I think he chose a brilliant example to share with the largely Singaporean librarian audience; the old library building at Stamford Road. I think I should leave it to him to blog about his experience at this conference. I should say though, that had I been in his shoes, I certainly would have taken the opportunity to take a dig at the top guns for their short-sighted decision to replace our beloved library at Stamford Road with a soul-less tunnel.

Finally, I would like to thank the NLB for inviting me and Char Lee to do this presentation and to talk about something close to my heart. Like many of the other participants I thought the whole event was very well-organised and the usual professionalism and enthusiasm of the NLB staff is beyond reproach. I reminded myself that these are the folks who won the coveted Singapore Quality Award. I also got to meet some new friends and a few old ones. Quite possibly, I might even have gained a couple of fans judging from the sudden increase in the number of ‘followers’ of this blog.

As this conference was held at the Carlton Hotel in Bras Basah Road, I took the opportunity to do a ‘second shot’ of George Shaw’s 1948 photo of the Cathay Building. I leave it to the readers to spot the differences.

Looking the above photo, I realize that my skills in 'precision photography' are no match for Char Lee's. Maybe we should invite him to redo this and show us how it should be done. In fact I even mis-spelled Bras Basah Rd but I am to lazy to make the correction.

** Related post by James Seah here.

** Read Pauline Loh's review/summary of our talk here.

12 comments: said...

I can't think of better advocates for blogging than you, Victor, James Seah, and Unk Dicko. Oh, I hope you shared your "Uncle, you ROCK!" story, Chun See :)

Lam Chun See said...

Yes. I most certainly did. Never fails to elicit laughter from the audience.

Zen said...

Old iconic buildings should be preserved whenever possible. They are a link from which our present generation can connect with the past. Demolishing them will turn us into a society without a soul.

Unknown said...

Chun See, Congratulations to you and to your friend Char Lee for this achievement and success. It must have been very interesting. It is true that everytime I return to Singapore, one or even more buildings have been demolished. We who are overseas, are coming home to see so much changes taking place every day. Some told us to accept : it's a form of development! Like Zen said, does development or modernization turn Singapore into a society without a soul? How can we try to walk down the memory lane when the old buildings have been gone..... I do wonder how long will BRS survive?

Zen said...

Kim - The other day I passed by brs and found it is still standing proudly amidst heavy construction activities, but it is likely that her days are numbered - like general cluster making a last stand.

Lam Chun See said...

When I first blogged about BRS in Nov 2005, which is almost 5 years ago, I speculated that the buildings would be demolished soon becos I saw a great deal of construction work going on nearby. At that time they were building the viaduct to connect Lornie Rd to Braddell Rd. Today, this viaduct is completed and BRS is still around. Let's hope it will for another 5 years.

Lam Chun See said...

Here's an example why nostalgia blogs like ours help to educate Sporeans about buildings that "disappear overnight".

In Jan 2008, I blogged about this old building near the National Stadium that used to house the Spore Netball Association.

Today, that building is gone and one reader at a forum called Skyscrapercity used my article to inform other readers about this building.

But I think many of them did not know that I had learnt through this blog that as far back as 1952, this building used to be the Royal Spore Flying Club. Hope one of them reads this comment and let them know.

Unknown said...

Thanks to Zen and Chun See for your assurances to me that BRS still stands today. When I passed it this year, I noticed that the viaduct took away the main entrance road leading to the school carpark (where the dentist van used to station there too) the nearby garden/park with huge trees and flowers and also the lower block which housed the school office, the teachers room and the classrooms of Pr. I & II. What remain today are the 2 other blocks and part of the school field. Chun See, we are lucky to have your blog - at least we are still able to walk down the memory lanes of old Singapore. In other words, I am eagerly awaiting for your book of GMY - I want it signed personally plse!

Country dating said...

I also thinks that blogs are really good source to capture memories and we can share that with all the people also. By making blogs we can show are memories to the outer world.

yg said...

chun see, anyway, the old spelling for bras basah is brass bassa. maybe, yours is an update of the spelling.

FL said...

Your photos showing the new & old Bras Basah Rd evoke memories of secondary schooldays. There were a number of bookshops along this road back in the sixties. I used to buy those school textbooks there whenever the school had run out of stocks. I believe many of you folks did the same. Anyway, thanks for the photos. said...

The iconic part of the construction aspects of both an iconic object, like a byzantine painting of Jesus, and the philosophical definition of an icon, ie, a poster with a factor in common with what it represents.