Singapore Launches Street Corner Showcases for Traditional Trades

The owners and staff of Loong Fatt, the oldest surviving traditional coffee shop in Balestier known for its signature traditional flaky pastry filled with green bean paste, standing around the shop’s street corner heritage gallery © National Heritage Board, Singapore

Singapore launched its Street Corner Heritage Galleries scheme for traditional trades on 7 March 2020. The new scheme will involve the National Heritage Board of Singapore (NHB) collaborating with qualifying local traditional trades and businesses with significant history in selected precincts to co-curate “street corner heritage galleries” that will showcase the history of their respective shops, trades, and products as well as other intangible cultural heritage (ICH) elements through displays of historical documents, photographs, and artefacts.

Under the scheme, NHB will also provide training to owners of these traditional trades and businesses in the areas such as the development and delivery of heritage programs. NHB will also provide funding support to these street corner heritage galleries to encourage them to develop heritage programs and to participate in NHB’s signature events such as Singapore Heritage Festival, CultureFests, etc. as showcases of Singapore’s living heritage.

According to Mr. Alvin Tan, Deputy Chief Executive (Policy & Community) of NHB: “Through the scheme, we hope to identify existing heritage resources and perform ‘urban acupuncture’ by introducing small-scale interventions to showcase these resources and in the process, revitalize the precinct through street-level heritage.”

The owners of Loy Kee, a shop selling traditional Hainanese chicken rice in the Balestier area since 1953, standing next to their street corner heritage gallery © National Heritage Board, Singapore

The scheme is aligned with NHB’s five-year masterplan, Our SG Heritage Plan, which seeks to showcase heritage in everyday places to encourage greater public awareness and appreciation of heritage in our midst. NHB will be piloting the scheme with the traditional trades and businesses within the Balestier precinct, and they include a traditional pastry shop, a traditional bakery, a traditional coffee powder shop and more.

Following its launch, NHB will be identifying other traditional trades and businesses and partnering with the relevant community stakeholders to roll out the scheme on a precinct-by-precinct basis starting with Balestier and Kampong Gelam in 2020 followed by Little India and Chinatown in 2021, and finally Geylang Serai in 2022. Overall, NHB hopes to co-create a total of twenty-five street corner heritage galleries with traditional trades and businesses across the different precincts.

Through the Street Corner Heritage Galleries scheme, NHB hopes to facilitate stronger stakeholder participation and ownership of different aspects of Singapore’s heritage; equip traditional trades and businesses with the necessary basic competencies in the areas of heritage documentation, promotion, and conservation; activate public spaces through a stakeholder-centric and participatory approach; and create a network of community-championed “mini heritage galleries” in different parts of Singapore.