Archiving the wild, the wild archivist: Bukit Brown Cemetery and Singapore’s emerging ‘docu-tivists’

Archives and Manuscripts, 2014, Vol 42, No 1, 87 - 97
DOI: 10.1080/01576895.2014.902319

Natalie Pang and Liew Khai Khiun

In recent years there has been growing interest in the discipline of computing in relation to cultural heritage, parallel with developments in greater user participation in archives and advances in documentation work. These trends are reflected in the case of a documentation project of an old Chinese cemetery in Singapore, Bukit Brown Cemetery. This case was characterised by tensions among the ‘wild’ array of emerging individual participants and archivists that took the momentum away from both more formal NGOs and government institutions in documenting, archiving and raising awareness of the heritage of the site when part of it was announced to be set aside for a new highway. The case presents a compelling need for participatory archives, facilitated by computing interventions encouraging public engagement and visits to the site. Being actively involved in the documentation process, the authors reflect on how conceptual frameworks of records may assist in designing new media innovations and informing the ways by which a cemetery may be documented. Through these reflections, the authors argue for the active participation of archivists and records professionals in documentation work, and demonstrate how, in the creation and keeping of records, they shape the collective imagination of the public and other stakeholders in heritage sites.