Thursday, 28 April 2005

A patchwork history

Many thanks to fellow Singaporean blogger Mr Miyagi for the link. Miyagi took time off his schedule of teaching Ralph Macchio to wax on and off to blog about an effort to collate the voices of Singaporeans - a sort of folk history or oral history of Singapore and Singaporeans via podcast. Recording down the voices of our grandparents and others who've spent time on this island and preserve their stories - I think this is a very worthy project.

When I travelled around England and Wales and stayed at little bed-and-breakfasts around the country, I would occasionally meet people who said "you're from Singapore? I served there". As I was walking around Holyhead, I was randomly approached by an old drunk man who immediately said - proclaimed, really - "you're from Singapore!" Clearly, I was stunned, and just said, "yes, I am", to which he responded "I served there", and promptly listed out all the roads named for London streets near Seletar - he thought, as I do, that it was funny that there was a Leicester Square and an Oxford Circus and so on in this random corner of the world.

We must have looked a sight, an old drunk striking up a conversation with a Chinese backpacker in the middle of a tiny Welsh town at noon. It was certainly somewhat surreal, but it was at the same time enlightening, listening to this man ramble on about pre-war Singapore.

Not much time left to collect stories of the prewar generation, I fear.

Mr Brown is collating an oral history of Singaporeans.



Recording is good - but I hope someone transcribes them as well. Whenever I hear about the oral histories that have been collected I wonder who is going to listen to them. It takes so much longer to listen than to read, and if you're doing research audio recordings are not searchable.


Very true - and not easy to do. I once had a job transcribing interviews with people from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, basically about what the area was like after the riots. It's an essential part of the process.


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