Honouring heritage philanthropy in diverse forms, and our collective responsibility in safeguarding our heritage
Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, & Second Minister for Law, at the Patron of Heritage Awards 2022 on 9 October 2023
10 October 2023
A very good evening to all of you.
When I saw Siong Leng Musical Association on the stage earlier, what struck me was that it was a marriage of the old and the new - with the traditional instruments and old tunes in the Minnan dialect performed by young people, who are carrying the torch and lighting the way for stewarding that heritage to the next generation. I felt that it was very meaningful.
I am so glad that we are all here tonight to celebrate the Patron of Heritage Awards. This is the fourth year that I have attended the Awards since I took on the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth portfolio in 2020.
Over the last four years, I am very heartened to see how the support from our patrons has continued to grow year after year, and from strength to strength. Even at the height of the pandemic, many patrons still stepped forward selflessly and generously to support the important work of the heritage sector. And as the pandemic moved further away in our rear-view mirror, we see a boost in cultural philanthropy in tandem with our growth and development in Singapore. This signifies the relevance and value which society sees in honouring, preserving and properly stewarding our heritage.
Today, we are honouring 64 awardees, who collectively contributed about $17.7 million to heritage causes in 2022. This is more than a 10- fold increase from the prior year in 2021, which saw $1.6 million in contributions. These extraordinary individuals and organisations have played an instrumental role in shaping our country’s cultural and heritage landscape through their commitment to cultural philanthropy.
Broadening the impact of heritage through Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0
This year marks a significant milestone in the development of the
heritage sector in Singapore. We launched Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0
earlier this year. It is a five-year masterplan that charts out our future
plans for the heritage sector.
At the heart of these plans is a conscious effort to no longer look at
heritage as something you can only see in museums or galleries, but
something that allows us to expand the reach and influence of heritage
beyond the usual areas where you might encounter heritage, into the
areas of identity, community, industry and innovation. As we take
Singapore forward, we often have to look back in order for us to chart
our path forward.
Our heritage is a rich tapestry woven from the threads of diverse
cultures, traditions and histories, and is a treasure we hold dear. It is for
us to protect and pass on.
Therefore, under the Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0, we will further steward
our heritage and expand the impact it can have on more Singaporeans,
using new and fresh ideas, be it in terms of collaborating with
unexpected partners, telling unique stories, or targeting new audiences.
Importance of cultural philanthropy to heritage
We have many exciting plans lined-up under this new heritage
plan. However, the work of preserving and promoting our heritage
requires not only passion but also dedication, and in many cases,
substantial resources. It is only through the support of our wider
community, sharing this passion, and our network of patrons that we can
turn our ambitious plans into reality.
Our community is a significant building block under the new
heritage plan. We aim to encourage greater co-ownership of our heritage with our community, so that all Singaporeans will feel more invested in
promoting and celebrating our histories.
Diverse and inclusive giving towards heritage
A key to involving more of the community and enabling a
broadened scope of heritage is to encourage and celebrate more
diverse and inclusive giving towards heritage.
Today, I am happy to announce that the National Heritage Board
has revised the Patron of Heritage Awards criteria to celebrate a wider
pool of contributors and genre of contributions. This will now include
nominations not just by museums, but also by community organisations
and non-profit interest groups. It will also include non-artefact donations
that have historical or cultural significance, or immovable property that
support heritage causes.
This recognition of more varied giving reflects the growth of
Singapore’s heritage sector and the shifting attitudes of Singaporeans
towards heritage. It recognises more partners who are contributing to
heritage causes in different ways, and through this, encourages more in
our community to step forward.
This will in turn create more opportunities for Singaporeans to
engage with heritage in everyday life, where they work, play and live,
cultivating a more participatory community, and allowing everyone to
enjoy, benefit from and contribute to heritage in their own ways in
Heritage philanthropy comes in different forms
This evening, we honour 64 awardees that have contributed in
many different ways. These patrons have supported our heritage sector,
from donations of unique and breathtaking artefacts, generous cash, and
in-kind donations, to the provision of expertise and professional services. They have truly shown that heritage philanthropy can come in many
Under the expanded Patron of Heritage Awards criteria of donation
of “immovable property”, we are very grateful for the one-of-its-kind
donation of a historic townhouse by the Portabella family to the National
University of Singapore, along with a gift of $2 million to fund its
restoration. This townhouse at 141 Neil Road now serves as a centre
for research and training in architectural heritage conservation and
We would also like to thank Mrs Alice Tan for the gift of an
extensive 577-piece collection of Straits Chinese ceramics and Chinese
export silver to the Straits Chinese collections at NUS Museum and
NUS Baba House. This is the largest collection of objects donated to
the NUS Museum by a single collector.
We are also very grateful to Mr Andrew Gn, one of Singapore’s
most accomplished fashion designers, for the exceptional gift
comprising over 160 of his contemporary fashion creations. The
donation is a significant step in expanding Singapore’s design
collection, which is an important part of Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0.
We would also like to thank our long-standing donors who remain
steadfast in their support. They include Singapore Airlines Limited, a
repeat POHA awardee, which donated a set of seats from the iconic
Airbus A380 aircraft to the National Museum of Singapore.
I would also like to give a shoutout to Mr Goh Geok Khim, who in
1995 donated the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History
Drawings to the National Museum of Singapore. Last year, he further
donated copies of a limited-edition catalogue featuring full-coloured
prints of the drawings to the National Museum, with proceeds from the
catalogues’ sale going towards the Museum.
Many thanks to all the patrons who contributed and put forward
their donations so generously.
One more special contributor to mention is homegrown innovation
company Pan-United Corporation, a global leader in low-carbon
concrete technologies, which you may not typically associate with the
preservation and protection of heritage. [They] supplied a special self-
compacting concrete that formed the base of the AMX-13 SM1 tank on
display at the lawn of the National Museum of Singapore last year.
Coming forward, lending their expertise, innovation, and technology to
facilitate the display of heritage pieces so that more Singaporeans can
enjoy them – these are all diverse and special ways of contributing to
The above that I have cited are just some examples of the breadth
and variety of contributions by our patrons of heritage. All the donors
and awardees have been truly generous and selfless, for which we are
To all 64 awardees, I would like to express our appreciation for
your contributions to Singapore’s heritage.
The heritage sector has come a long way in Singapore. The
National Heritage Board is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. I
would like to congratulate NHB on their anniversary and wish them
many more successful years to come.
NHB has been instrumental in building up our heritage. Singapore
has come so far, so quickly. We focused a lot on building our country
and nation, and it is time now to pay attention to our heritage as that is
what defines us, that is what’s common amongst us as fellow
Singaporeans, and that is how we can chart our path forward to bring
our nation into the next growth spurt. Looking at the softer side of
society – the arts, culture, and heritage – these will be our engine
rooms for our growth in the foreseeable future.
Beyond NHB, we also have a thriving and expanding heritage
sector, with a wide variety of institutions, private museums, community
groups, and non-profit organisations, all playing an important part in stewarding our heritage. The continued success of our heritage sector
is due, in no small part, to the generosity of the patrons. I hope that this
generosity we honour tonight will inspire more Singaporeans to do our
collective part in contributing to the development of Singapore’s
As we embark on shaping the future of our heritage sector with
Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0, we hope to continue to receive your
generous support and contributions of all kinds. Safeguarding and
promoting our heritage is truly a community-wide endeavour, and our
collective responsibility. We hope that we can create a connected
people anchored in our shared heritage and invested in telling our
To the patrons we honour this evening – once again, thank you
very much for your kind, selfless and generous contributions.