Singapore Memory Project (SMP)
National Library Board

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative? Describe in no more than 500, words the situation before the initiative began. What major problems and issues needed to be addressed? What social groups, e.g., the poor, illiterate, disabled, elderly, immigrants, women, youth, ethnic minorities, were affected and in what ways? Singapore of today is a sovereign city-state of 5.3 million people. Since gaining independence in 1965, it has developed into an developed nation known for its efficiency, infrastructure, principle of meritocracy and high standard of living. Singapore is at a unique junction where the memories of those who were part of Singapore’s early days of nation-building are still around to be captured. Many from the first generation of Singaporeans who grew up prior to and after its independence are still around today and have lucid memories of Singapore’s nascent growth. However, this opportunity will soon pass in one generation. And it would be imperative to build a culture of remembering through shared memories and common experiences for the nation. In recent years, the rapid pace of development and the equally fast changing cityscape in Singapore has led many Singaporeans to reminisce about the past. Coupled with that, Singapore’s maturity as a city-state in the global context has also given rise to a need for fostering a sense of rootedness and national identity among its people. It was in this climate of longing and need to be aware of our past that the Singapore Memory Project (SMP) was born in 2011. The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a national project that is unprecedented in its scale to pull together all related agencies currently attempting their own documenting efforts, of creating a national education programme that is directed and yet leverages on the proliferative power of the Web, and finally of pooling the nation’s resources in digital content collection and development to create a definitive and exhaustive story of the nation. The SMP aims to capture the lives of that senior generation with first-hand accounts of Singapore’s nation-building years – the lives that in most big history accounts of any nation are but marginalia to the grand narrative. Besides this key target group, the SMP also aims to capture the memories of all Singaporeans and its residents, from all age groups and walks of life.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a long-term national programme set up to enable the cultural, social and intellectual memory of Singapore to be collected, organised, preserved and promoted for discovery and research. The SMP is led by the National Library Board Singapore, and directed by the Ministry of Communications & Information. The SMP was announced by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally in 2011. Unlike all other memory projects internationally which focus on institutional memories from official records and published content, SMP puts equal emphasis on capturing the personal stories and accounts of Singaporeans and anyone who has ever experienced Singapore. This is unique globally and the motivation is derived in part from the smallness of our island state, which makes such a large scale project possible. At the same time, technological development is at its zenith in terms of the ease of capturing, preserving and sharing memories. The SMP strongly believes that personal perspectives and first-hand stories and accounts from individuals provide emotions and gives life to Singapore’s history. Therefore, the SMP provides every Singaporean, young and old, a reason and the opportunity to have their stories or memories recorded for posterity. The SMP provides the natural platform to draw in all partners and collaborators, creating a whole web of story nodes that come together to achieve the target of building a National Memory bank of Singapore with personal stories.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
A project of such a scale and nature necessitates the use of multiple channels and innovative approaches to reach out to and interact with the different strata of society. A brief description of two main channels for memory contribution, the SMP web portal and mobile App, is provided below: a) Permanent Memory Account through web portal Enabled by the current advancements in technologies, the SMP provides the opportunity for each Singaporean to open an enduring personal memory account via the Singapore Memory web portal (, with the desired intent of allowing every Singaporean to deposit their memories and stories via any format – be it through words, audio, video or photos. The platform’s virtual nature also extends an invitation to overseas Singaporeans as well as non-Singaporeans who has experienced Singapore to discover, share and contribute their personal memories towards the growing body of all things Singapore. As a means to preserve the national memory, the model used by the portal is closer to a social media platform than a library archival database, even though the supporting framework is based on the library’s metadata and information architecture. The use of social media platforms by SMP is therefore a breakthrough to reach out and engage citizens to participate and submit their memories. Beyond the repository function, the portal will also attempt to connect every memory submitted to other related memories within the database. This creates a tangential linkage and builds a sense of community via common themes and shared experiences. b) Memory as it happens with SG Memory mobile application Along with the web portal, the SMP team has also developed a complimentary mobile application to permit Singaporeans to capture and share their memories as it happens. The iOS App, for Apple mobile devices, allows anyone to capture memories of people, places and events whenever and wherever, in the form of photos and stories and have these directly contributed to the portal. The App features several interactive elements such as user tagging and commenting, as well as presents memories in a compelling manner through a map. Besides the App, SMP also has been steadily entering the social media spaces and is now highly active in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
SMP has adopted a multi-pronged strategy of going to places where the people frequent and live in and capturing their memories in situ. A snapshot of some of the approaches implemented are: • To reach out to the older generation, SMP has organised, in collaboration with the communities, roadshows in the public housing estates. These roadshows are large scale carnivals where residents of the communities play the games of yesteryear, watch performances of artistes and contribute their memories by telling stories or sharing their treasured photo collections. • Touchpoints include: • Public libraries – Singapore has one of the most visited libraries in the world – are another popular touchpoint for memory contributions. Between September and December 2012, the SMP conducted a collection exercise through the 25 public libraries and collected more than 50,000 memories from the library members and visitors, capturing their fond memories of the neighbourhoods they live in and the libraries they frequent. • The National Day Parade - At this largest national event of the year, memories are collected from the spectators as they watch and celebrate Singapore’s independence. • Partners and volunteers: SMP has also leveraged on more than 170 partners including schools, community clubs and MediaCorp – Singapore’s leading broadcast and media company. MediaCorp recently launched a television, radio and web campaign entitled “My Story” to capture memories of Singaporeans across generations. An outline of the implementation schedule for the SMP initiatives and activities, since 2011, is as follows: Aug 2011 Mar 2012 Apr 2012 May 2012 Jun 2012 Aug 2012 Sep 2012 Nov 2012 2013 Jan 2013 Mar 2013 Apr 2013 May 2013 Jul 2013 Aug 2013 Sep 2013 Dec 2013 2014 Jan 2014 Mar 2014 Nov 2014 2015 Apr 2015 – Launch of the SMP by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - irememberSG Facebook and blog – Launch of portal - SMP national ad campaign - iremembermySchoolDays campaign launched, in collaboration with Ministry of Education. - iremembermySchoolDays competition - Launch of SG Memory iOS application - iremember goes to Toa Payoh roadshow - irememberMENDAKI campaign - irememberMerlion campaign - Singapore Day 2012 roadshow, in New York - iremember goes to Yuhua roadshow - irememberGoodFood campaign - irememberSocialServices, in collaboration with National Council of Social Services - irememberNationalDay campaign, in collaboration with National Day Parade 2012 organising committee - “A collection of our Shared Memories” exhibition, in collaboration with Lianhe Zaobao. - My Library.My Home campaign, in collaboration with Public Libraries – iremember goes to Kolam Ayer” roadshow, in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Festival 2012 on 29 September. - irememberDoingGood campaign, in collaboration with the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre - irememberScience Centre campaign, in collaboration with Science Centre Singapore - irememberChineseNewYear campaign - Showcase: My Library.My Home, at 25 Public Libraries - irememberParks campaign, in collaboration with National Parks Board - iremember goes to Tampines roadshow, in collaboration with Tampines Town Hub and Tampines Group Representation Constituency - iremember goes to Paya Lebar roadshow, in collaboration with Paya Lebar-Kovan Community Club - irememberKKH, in collaboration with KK Hospital - “Our Memories” photo album competition, in collaboration with ITE College West - Showcase: Hands - Gift of a Generation exhibition - Awesome memories of yesteryear initiative, targeted at primary and secondary schools - SMP Memory kit distribution to partners, Memory Corps and schools - Launch of iremembersg funding scheme - irememberBookstores @ Bras Basah Complex, in collaboration with Chou Sing Chu Foundation and Popular Book Co. - Launch: Memories of reading, books and bookstores, in collaboration with Public Libraries, Chou Sing Chu Foundation and bookstores (launch date to be confirmed) - SMP Library launch (date to be confirmed) - Singapore Day 2014 memory collection, in London - Showcase: Memories of reading, books and bookstores, at the National Library - Mega showcase, in conjunction with 50th birthday of Singapore, at the National Museum Singapore and various locations across the nation

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The achievement of national traction entails a whole-of-nation strategy where partnerships and relationships are forged with partners across the wide strata including public and private bodies, schools and academic institutions, societies, clan associations and even niche interest groups to help undertake campaigns to collect stories and memories from their members and target audiences. The establishment of this relationship forms a network that enables SMP to have constant exchanges and conversations with a wide spectrum of the population across the nation. The SMP currently involves more than 170 partners ranging from government agencies, libraries, research institutions, community organisations, companies to individuals. Key organisations contributing to the project include the National Library Singapore, the National Archives of Singapore, the Singapore Press Holdings (Singapore’s largest newspaper publishing house), the libraries of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and the National University of Singapore, and even COMPASS (The Composers and Authors Society of Singapore). From these partnerships, institutional memories that have been collected include digitised copies of major newspapers such as The Straits Times, Singapore’s national newspaper, from its inception in 1845. In addition, the SMP has a supportive pool of Memory Corps – volunteers who serve in various roles, such as helping individuals with difficulties documenting their memories, connecting the SMP to people with memories of key Singapore events, personalities and places and enrolling more volunteers to join the SMP cause. The SMP Steering Committee is responsible for providing the strategic directions for the SMP. Chaired by the Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information, the members of this Committee consist of representatives from government, non-government and private organisations. In addition, the Chief Executive and senior management of the National Library Board provides constant guidance to the SMP and carries out regular monitoring and review of the implementation status and outcomes achieved.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The SMP is supported through public funding provided by the Singapore Government

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Below are four outputs that contribute to the success of the initiative: a. Building high level of awareness of the SMP In the initial years of the project, the SMP launched an all-embracing engagement and outreach strategy to create a high level of awareness of the Project and to reach out to the masses. This was done through:  Active engagement of partners and organisation of collaborative memory collection campaigns with the partners.  Comprehensive and regular publicity and outreach strategy, through physical and online channels. This included a series of roadshows in various constituencies, memory collection campaigns and publicity through both traditional (on print media, broadcast and radio) and new media. These concerted efforts have garnered positive benefits for the SMP as evident by the number of individuals and organisations which have come forward to initiate and lead memory collection projects, mostly utilising their own resources, targeting at people within their circles and networks. b. Strong partnerships with organisations, groups and individuals Recognising the need for strong partnerships with organisations, the SMP adopted an open door approach to encourage organisations, institutions as well as interest groups to come on board as partners of the SMP. To-date, the SMP has more than 170 partners who have lent their support in different ways, including running memory collection campaigns within their networks, contributing content from their archives or simply being SMP’s advocates and connecting the SMP to people or organisations with rich memories to share. c. Active engagement with online community SMP uses various social media platforms to engage the public and keep the Project in the mind share of the community. The SMP’s irememberSG Facebook page attracts a strong following and has a very active fan base of about 64,000 currently, ranking us among the top 100 Singapore brands with the highest online penetration rate locally. In terms of reach, our Facebook page reaches more than 1.6 million facebook account holders every month, achieving an 80% market penetration out of 2 million Singapore based accounts. In addition, the irememberSG has a presence on instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube, enabling SMP to target a cross spectrum of online users as well as providing the community with convenient channels to share their personal memories. d. Memory showcases that resonates The memories collected by the SMP or its partners are curated and made accessible to the public via exhibitions, publications, film productions, etc. Examples of recent showcases include: a) “My Home, My Library” exhibition which was held across 25 Public Libraries island-wide from March to April 2013. Each library featured heartwarming stories shared by the residents of their neighbourhoods they live in and the libraries they visit. “Hands: Gift of a Generation” exhibition pays tribute to the struggles of early pioneers and celebrates the contributions of Singaporeans to the development of Singapore in the early years. More than 400 memories were displayed at the exhibition This exhibition, held in August and September 2013, at the National Library, touched the hearts of many visitors as evident by the many compliments received and the wide media coverage.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
A robust monitoring and evaluation system had been put in place for the SMP, ensuring that the project is on track and achieving its objectives and desired outcomes. This monitoring is done on a regular basis at three key levels: i) At the strategic level, by the SMP Steering Committee, chaired by the Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information, with members comprising representatives from government, non-government and private organisations. This Committee meets on a quarterly basis ensuring that the Project is achieving its desired objectives, provides inputs to and approves the strategic direction. ii) At the planning and implementation level, NLB-SMP Management Meeting chaired by the Chief Executive, NLB with members consisting of key Group and Divisional Directors of NLB. This meeting, held monthly, provides directions to the team in the planning, prioritization and implementation of its initiatives as well as monitors the results and outcomes achieved. iii) At the working or execution level, by the SMP Project and Budget Tracking Meeting, chaired by the Director, SMP, and attended by the Project Managers responsible for the various portfolios such as Engagement, Publishing and Production and Service Development. This Meeting is held monthly ensuring that the Project activities are on track, problems encountered are addressed on a timely basis and budget utilisation is closely monitored.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
One of the more challenging obstacles encountered was to get members of the public to contribute their memories on their own accord and submit them online to the Singapore Memory Project. The elderly generation with rich memories of the past, are mostly not tech savvy and therefore not adept at using online channels to contribute their memories. To address this obstacle, we collaborated with schools and trained students and volunteers to be interviewers so that they could conduct interviews, document the memories of the seniors and put them up online. Also, to engage this senior group, the SMP held several roadshows in the suburban residential areas, making it convenient for the residents and the elderly to share their stories and photos. While the tech savvy younger generation are more active online users, the SMP leveraged extensively on social media and the web such as Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and introduced the mobile App as well as partnered relevant organisations such as the Ministry of Education, schools and social organisations to reach out to the youths. Recognising that memories can be expressed in many different ways, besides the written format, the SMP welcomed memories in various representations and formats such as through photography, drawings, illustrations, animation, film, documentary and publication. This also helped to entice more people, especially from the younger generation, to share their memories in different expressions.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Most memory related projects globally focus primarily on collecting institutional content such as published works, manuscripts and ephemerals. The Singapore Memory Project is unique and unprecedented as it attempts to collect and weave together, memory by memory, the Singapore Story and presents the collective heritage based on stories shared by its people. Besides memory collection, the SMP also encourages the curation of the memories collected into meaningful narratives and knowledge assets. In September 2013, the SMP launched the irememberSG Fund to support and empower organisations and individuals who are keen to develop content or carry out memory collection and showcase projects. Several interesting project proposals had been received since the launch of the Fund and evaluation of the proposals is currently in progress. This collection of stories and curated products would enrich the current body of knowledge and the National Library’s Singapore Collection, which would be beneficial to researchers, students and Singaporeans in general. As the SMP memory documentation is an ongoing initiative, the following indicators are being used to measure the effectiveness of the Project: • No. of quality memories collected and made accessible • No. of publications/products made accessible No. of interactions on social media

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Since its inception, the SMP has been conceptualised, implemented and sustained as a nation-wide initiative. Due to the collaborative nature of the SMP, the “iremember” engagement platform allows for any agency or institution to adopt the idea easily and to implement their own memory project for their specific niche target audiences. Other agencies can tap on SMP’s branding, logo design and platforms to easily run their own campaigns. Agencies can choose to use the Singapore Memory portal as a submission engine, with basic specific tagging to ensure that all submissions for particular campaigns can be easily grouped and showcased together. SMP has also developed a memory campaign feature on its platform that would enable members of the public to effortlessly find any related campaigns, and to be able to contribute their memories and stories towards a particular campaign without having to log into their accounts. This ease of participation is built primarily to help all partners and collaborators in furthering the SMP cause. To-date, several collaborative campaigns were run by the participating partners and these include : iremembermySchoolDays (Ministry of Education), irememberMENDAKI (Yayasan MENDAKI), irememberMerlion (Singapore Tourism Board), irememberSocialServices (National Council of Social Service), irememberChingay (People’s Association), irememberParks (National Parks Board), My Library.My Home (Public Library Services), etc.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Managing such a large scale national project, which is unprecedented in Singapore, has indeed been challenging and we have learnt many valuable lessons in the course of the project. We would continue to take the learning lessons in our stride, conducting regular reviews and tweaking the strategies constantly as we go along. Two of the more pertinent lessons are summarised below: i) Achieving the target of 5 million memories by 2015 At the onset of the project, a collection target of 5 million memories by 2015 was set – a symbolic target based on one memory for every resident. The ambitious target proved to be extremely challenging and unattainable, causing a strain on the team’s resources and manpower. As a consequence, this affected the amount of resources dedicated to the documentation of in-depth and quality memories. A review was conducted at the end of the second year and as the project enters its third year, the target of five million is no longer a priority. Rather the project is now focused, based on the same principle that is applied for any library collection, on the quality and depth of the memories we are collecting. ii) Memory collection strategy When we first started the Project, we had drawn up a grand design of categories and profiles for the memories we hope to collect, akin to the traditional “completionist” approach. The memory collection map comprised focus areas such as occupations or trades, geographical regions, sectors and industries. However, as the Project progressed, we realised that each person’s memory, especially when articulated in depth, is so multi-facetted and specific that it often cannot be pigeon-holed into any one category. Most importantly, we did not wish to inadvertently miss out on capturing the stories from people who might not fit within any of the target profiles that we had identified. As such, we promptly changed tack towards a less structured but more encompassing approach, simplifying the criterion for contribution to “as long as the person has a story to tell and is willing to share all of its details. Our experience has been that memories that are well-documented and high quality memories can act as a powerful trigger, sparking off the sharing of memories from and touching the hearts of the readers. We have found the Singapore Memory Project to be a very impactful project which has moved many that we have approached and also serving as a beacon and firestarter - inspiring many memory collection movements in Singapore. We sincerely hope this would be a continuing trend into the future and through the collective efforts, we can present the story of Singapore as our legacy and gift to our future generations.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Library Board
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Wee Pin Wan
Title:   Deputy Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +65 6332 4730
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   100 Victoria Street #14-01, National Library Building
Postal Code:   188064
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore

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