Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Heritage Blog (or "Museum Roundtable Blog")

Reference: "Upcoming Museum Roundtable Blog"
Update 2 Feb: Otterman blogs about
Museum/heritage blog meeting

Heritage Blog Meet

Heritage Blog MeetThe 14 of us (or thereabouts) informally chatted over dinner at the Moon River cafe. Incidentally, the cafe was where members of BookCrossing-Singapore have their regular meetings. I highly recommend the Stewed Beef Japanese Curry. I'm not saying this because the owner was nice enough to let our party stay past their closing.

We largely ignored the agenda prepared for us (hey, it's 'Gahmen'-related event so not surprising to have agenda) and started with brief individual introductions.

The bloggers (who weren't NHB staff) were Chun See, Siva, Preetam, myself (the rest preferred to retain an air of mystery). The bloggers in the group, 7 of us, talked about why we agreed to be part of NHB's effort to start a blog-related initiative.

While the individual bloggers (all volunteers for the project) have different definitions of what is "heritage" (which is OK), we all seem to share a passion about promoting "our Singapore Heritage" in whatever form it might be. My interest was in getting people to share personal stories -- what might seem mundane today constitutes heritage material for tomorrow.

Walter, Corp Comms director for NHB, said NHB has been promoting "Singapore Heritage" for 13 years. They realise their efforts cannot continue to be "top down". They envision Singapore Heritage to be celebrated not in "straight-laced manners". They want people to contribute personal stories.

My assessment is that the 3 NHB staff present (who've blogged to some extend) understand blogs to a large degree. They've experimented with this one for sometime now and two of them have their personal blogs.

The blog project is to "create a platform to share heritage-related content". Their challenge is in addressing the perceptions that museums are boring & irrelevant. The seed funding for this project is from their parent ministry, on the condition was that it shouldn't be another yet another government-driven initiative. I think that speaks well of the intent behind the whole project.

NHB has hired a marketing & comms agency to help with what I see as a traditional "bottom of line" marketing. There were some questions from the bloggers on the involvement of a "traditional marketing" agency but we agreed it was NHB's call. I think it's not necessarily a bad idea and it could prove complimentary. I guess what's unsaid is that we'd like to see the marketing agency folks actually blogging as well. Nothing beats "being in it".

We recognised the "older generation" were the ones who were likely to have "heritage stories" to contribute but they weren't the ones who were inclined to take up the blogging medium. Suggestions floated around, like getting those techo-savvy younger generation to be the conduits to collect the content and post it (e.g. Interview and Post).

I'm all for that idea. I said people needed excuses to share stories. Speaking from experience, I'd welcome an excuse to ask my own father and mother about their personal stories, perhaps even their perspectives on why they did certain things when I was growing up (things which might be less painful to talk about now that everyone is older but would be strange to suddenly broach the topic).

There were more thoughtful discussions but by this time, I stopped taking notes on my handheld. My attention was on the delicious extra spicy curry. I did, however, remember a certain someone saying "Art museum is irrelevant and should close". OK, this statement has to be taken in context, so hold your horses. I'm making a point to say dissenting views are allowed within the group and that's the policy NHB wants to adopt for their blog project. They will also respond to comments and questions via the blog.

General agreement was to allow unmoderated comments as a start. Policy-wise (on what can be posted or discussed), they've provided some common sense guidelines. No red-tape here. Topics that touch on political, religious and racial sensitivities will be dealt with cautiously.

I asked if we'll see NHB/ museum staff being encouraged to blog and allow people to have a peek into what's it like working for the museums. The answer was "we'll see" or something like that.

We discussed about the "Heritage Blog" being seen as a "government-blog". In the end, I think we weren't too hung up on this. There's an unspoken agreement that there's nothing "propagandist" about the motives of the project.

On that point, I felt a "government blog" is nothing to be ashamed of (if there was one). It's how it's implemented. Heck, if the fact that High Browse Online is a blog by a government-funded agency makes us it a "government blog", whose intent is to promote reading and learning, then I say I'm damn proud of it.

Last major thing we discussed was on the name of the blog/ meta-blog. We unabashedly agreed we're modeling ourselves after (good ideas deserves to be adopted).

We shortlisted these names:
The team wants to try getting more views via

Final comments from the group:
"What do young people want (wrt History, Heritage, Arts)?"
"Love or hate it, just talk about it".
"We don't know if it will work. Just try and see lor".

I liked that last one. This whole initiative isn't some life and death scenario. If we've tried and failed, we'd know works and what don't. But if we don't even try, we'd forever be ignorant.

Tag: , ,


  1. Excellent summary.

    Another idea for name of site - ", or"

  2. What about... "" which is Spanish (or is it Latin?) for 'moment', and also a play on the word 'memento' - something to remember and cherish, and which suggests the present as much as the past.

  3. I'll confess to saying the "Art museum is irrelevant" and in fact even more, but it was pretty much rhetoric although the underlying call was to make it more accessible to plebians like me.

    Interstesting point was how Walter hardly blinked. Nice when he's the chair and we can misbehave...

    Nice write up, Ivan!

  4. Ivan,

    Thanks for the post, which kinda captures the spirit of our discussions.

    Like I have shared before, if we want heritage to truly be a part of everyone's lives, there must be a personal and emotional connection. To engage hearts, minds and souls, we need something that people can actively participate in. They need to be advocates, activists and ambassadors - not just cold and passive audiences. It doesn't necessarily have to be the official national spiel so long as it takes root in their hearts.

    This is where blogging can come in as an important channel to bridge the gap.


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