Safeguarding our heritage and making it accessible to all
Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the virtual re-opening of the Changi Chapel and Museum
18 May 2021
It is my pleasure to be part of the virtual re-opening of the Changi Chapel and Museum, or CCM.
It has been 79 years since thousands of Prisoners of War and civilians were marched to Changi prison camp to be imprisoned, following the British Surrender of Singapore on 15 February 1942.
a)This sombre milestone in Singapore’s World War II history marked the beginning of the three-and-a-half-year Japanese occupation.
Importance of safeguarding our history and heritage
It is episodes like these which anchor our history and heritage. Even though they may have taken place before the independence of Singapore, they are important reminders of this country’s journey, and indeed, an indelible part of our national identity.
a)They also represent how far we have come, as a nation.
The re-opening of the CCM is the latest demonstration of MCCY and NHB’s commitment under Our SG Heritage Plan to document, safeguard and to celebrate our heritage, while ensuring that they remain relevant to our lives today.
a)We hope to present our heritage in a meaningful and accessible way to all Singaporeans;
b)As well as foreign friends who have a connection with, or an interest in, the history of Singapore.
Features of the revamped CCM
The CCM tells the stories of the Prisoners of War and other internees imprisoned at Changi prison camp, and their struggles and sacrifices.
a)Since it was opened in 2001, the CCM has been well-received locally and internationally, for its portrayal and recognition of the contributions of these individuals.
The National Museum of Singapore, which manages the CCM and oversaw this revamp, has introduced an enhanced narrative and new presentations that continue to honour this objective.
Contributions and views from the community played a major part in helping to prepare for its reopening.
a)In all, the CCM holds over 100 artefacts, many of which are personal objects either donated or loaned by the families of internees, or by other institutions.
b)82 of these artefacts are being displayed at the CCM for the very first time, such as the Diary of former civilian internee Arthur Westrop, and a Kodak Baby Brownie camera owned by Sergeant John Ritchie Johnston.
c)Nearly one third of the artefacts are community-contributed donations and loans from the families of Prisoners of War and internees.
d)These artefacts collectively add to the very rich history presented by CCM.
I would like to thank all those who have made generous loans and donations.
a)These will allow us to share your stories with future generations.
The museum’s curators also engaged academics, members of the public, museum volunteers, guides, students and youth for their feedback on the revamp.
Let me also thank all members of the community who contributed your valuable insights, which helped us ensure that the content of the museum remains, very importantly, relevant and relatable to Singaporeans.
Although the reopening of the CCM was delayed by a year due to COVID-19, it also gave the team more time to further digitalise the museum’s content.
a)For example, the team was able to enhance the visitor experience both onsite and online by producing behind-the-scenes video content as well as introducing nearby historical sites through the CCM's chatbot.
b)Now, the museum can reach out to more visitors locally and internationally, including those who may not be able to visit the museum in person.
The CCM will reopen to the public tomorrow, 19 May.
I hope that the experience of visiting the new CCM, whether live or digitally, will help all visitors reflect upon the importance of values like resilience, a sense of community, and hope in the face of adversity.
a)These are all values which will continue to stand us in good stead, especially as we battle the ongoing pandemic.