Historian joins project team

The Straits Times

Published on Dec 11, 2011

By Yen Feng

The committee for the Bukit Brown documentation project has added a new member, Dr Loh Kah Seng, to its team of heritage experts.

Dr Loh, 39, an independent historian, was recruited by the group’s team leader, Dr Hui Yew-Foong, last month.

Dr Loh said his job in the committee was to record the oral histories of Bukit Brown’s caretakers and former residents, in order to reconstruct a ‘sociocultural’ map of the cemetery that detailed where its kampungs, or villages, and religious spaces used to be.

He said that while some people might think it was unusual to include real-life interviews for a cemetery project, that only showed the need to encourage the viewpoint that the living and dead were not ‘separate’. Bukit Brown Cemetery, he said, was a case in point.

‘The cemetery encouraged the settlement of villages to provide services, such as tombstone engraving, for visitors, and jobs such as grass cutting and tending to the graves,’ said Dr Loh. ‘In turn, these services provided by the village played a role in reinforcing family and cultural relationships.’

Dr Loh, who is married, received his PhD in history from Murdoch University in 2009. He has lectured in various universities and is a former junior college teacher.

His research interests are in social history and memory.

Dr Loh said he hoped his work at Bukit Brown would inspire people to see that efforts to document a cemetery are not an ‘alien’ idea.

‘It’s not just a burial ground that we are documenting. Cemeteries are part of the history of living.’

Anyone who has information about Bukit Brown’s former residents can call Dr Loh on 8198-1172.

Copyright © 2011 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

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