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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

  1. A very good evening to all of you.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Broadening the impact of heritage through Our SG Heritage Plan 2.0

  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Importance of cultural philanthropy to heritage

  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Diverse and inclusive giving towards heritage

  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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 Singapore.
  19. Heritage philanthropy comes in different forms

  20. 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 diverse forms.
  21. 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 management.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. Many thanks to all the patrons who contributed and put forward their donations so generously.
  27. 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 heritage.
  28. 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 very grateful.
  29. To all 64 awardees, I would like to express our appreciation for your contributions to Singapore’s heritage.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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 heritage.
  33. 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 collective stories.
  34. To the patrons we honour this evening – once again, thank you very much for your kind, selfless and generous contributions.
  35. Thank you and enjoy the evening.
Last updated on 10 October 2023