Donors recognised for their gifts at National Heritage Board awards

Donors recognised for their gifts at National Heritage Board awards


SINGAPORE – Bridal shoes, exquisite 19th century batik pieces and rare postcards from Penang were among the artefacts that were donated to Singapore museums last year, adding to the nation’s growing trove of tangible heritage.

The donors of these – and others who made significant contributions to heritage causes – were recognised for their contributions at the 13th Patron of Heritage Awards ceremony at the Asian Civilisations Museum on Tuesday night (June 18).

Last year, the National Heritage Board (NHB) received a total of $6.5 million from 100 organisations and individuals in the form of artefact and cash gifts and in-kind support. 

A hundred batik pieces from three generations of the Oey family, who ran a Peranakan Chinese batik workshop in Pekalongan on the north coast of Java, were donated to the Peranakan Museum last year.

Ms Inge Hendromartono, 60, who made the donation with her two sisters, says many of the works are highly intricate and could sometimes take more than a year to make.

“Some of the fillings in the background are incredibly detailed… with not just dots, but tiny little flowers or tiny little triangles, and even little temples.”

Ms Hendromartono, a handbag designer who lives in the United States, said that she and her sisters decided to make the donation after long-time NHB patron and prominent Peranakan scholar Peter Lee told them about the Peranakan Museum.

From left: Indonesian sisters Ika Ratnadewi Hendromartono, Inge Trini R. Hendromartono and Melia Puspayanti Hendromartono, who donated batik peces. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, the guest of honour at Tuesday’s ceremony: “Today, our shared heritage is the social glue that binds communities of diverse backgrounds together and defines us as Singaporeans.”

She said aside from safeguarding Singapore’s treasures, another priority under the Our SG Heritage Plan is to make Singapore’s heritage and culture more accessible to Singaporeans.

“This includes ensuring that our museums are inclusive spaces. Our patrons have an important role to play in this effort, and can strengthen our work to reach out to diverse audiences, including groups with special needs and the elderly.”

She cited as examples the National Museum of Singapore’s Quiet Room initiative, which provides a calming setting in the museum for children who may experience over-stimulation, and the dementia-friendly app, My House of Memories, which will be adapted to feature some 100 objects from Singapore’s National Collection that could trigger memories for people with cognitive decline.

The Peranakan Museum also received more than 70 artefacts used in Peranakan wedding ceremonies, such as wedding shoes worn by the bride and groom. These were given by members of the Chia family, who also contributed other objects such as jiho (family name plaque) and portraits of their grandmother, Wee Bee Neo, who was a well-known wedding mistress-of-ceremonies.

Avid collector Cheah Jin Seng donated more than 560 picture postcards of 19th-century Penang and Malacca to the Singapore Philatelic Museum. The endocrinologist, who is in his late 70s, said that these complement his donation of more than 500 picture postcards of 19th-century Singapore made in 2006.

“All the postcards are of special interest. They collectively form the history of a place, the soul and body of a place. They must be viewed together as a whole. Since we are talking about 200 years (since) the landing of Raffles, and Raffles is intimately connected with the rest of the Straits Settlements, it would be good to put these postcards together,” he told The Straits Times.

“I collected them for the stamps initially, but as time went on, I found that the picture side was equally interesting.”

Prof Cheah Jin Seng has donated more than 500 postcards of 19th-century Penang and Malacca to the Singapore Philatelic Museum. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

In Singapore, picture postcards were first sent around 1897, and in Penang about a year later, said Prof Cheah. This means that Victorian-era postcards are “generally the most difficult to find and the most valuable”.

Others are notable because of the traces of postal history that mark them. Take, for example, a rare postmark of Siam on a postcard dated 1919 that was sent from Siam-occupied Kedah to France, or a postcard sent in 1901 from Penang to London cancelled with an E&O Hotel postmark.

“Postcards will tell you the history of a country,” said Prof Cheah, who has written several books on the subject. “The changing landscapes in the city, the architecture, the people, the food, the flora and fauna…”

“Nothing belongs to you permanently. You just keep it for the next generation. To me as a collector, somebody who loves these cards, it would be a pity if the cards were sold and split up. If I donate them to an institution like the Singapore Philatelic Museum, hopefully they will keep them for many years to come.”

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