The numbers game: National Heritage Board and a game that cannot last forever

I was snooping around, and found the National Heritage Board’s “Renaissance City Plan III Heritage Development Plan” (click ‘here‘). The following passage is taken from page 6.

The dramatic makeover in museum development over the last 18 years has captivated the people’s hearts and minds. This is most evident in the significant rise in museum visitorship, particularly since the launch of RCP in 2000. NHB’s museums attracted a record 1.86 million visitors in FY2007, a more than 300 per cent increase from just 0.60 million in FY2002. Another 4.36 million people participated in NHB’s outreach activities in FY2007, up from about 0.33 million in FY2002, an increase of over 1,200 per cent!

So, technically, in FY2007, a total of 1,86o,ooo + 4,36o,ooo (about 6,000,000 people) participated in heritage activities in Singapore.

Obviously, with only about 5,000,000 people living on this island, it would mean that everyone had taken part in at least one heritage activity, with some taking part in more than one. So, that cannot be lah!

Then I remembered that the numbers would’ve included tourists. So assuming that there was about 9,000,000 tourists who came to Singapore in FY2007, this would have created a potential audience of about 14,000,000 people.

Now, with about 6,000,000 people attending heritage activities in FY2007, that would have meant that just under half of the 14,000,000 people (tourists + locals) had attended one heritage activity or another.

This means that in FY2007, EVERY OTHER PERSON you had met (your office colleagues, the kopi-auntie at your favourite coffeeshop, the beer-swigging tourists from Australia, your next-door neighbours, the grocery lady you buy potatoes from, your maid, your postman, the petrol station pump attendant, your Bangladeshi sweeper in your estate, your butcher, random Indonesian ibu-tourists with big-hair, your daughter’s classmates….etc) had either visited a local museum or taken part in a heritage-activity that was out of the museums.

Possible? Not….

A case of National Heritage Board being a little too creative in their number-reporting so that they can ‘justify’ to Ministry of Finance that more money is needed every year? No one would know the answer to this.

But what I know is that after a while, NHB has to stop over-inflating the numbers (i.e. when they become truly unbelievable). And then what? NHB will be forced to report a year-on-year ‘drop’ in attendance for heritage activities. You see, the numbers game WILL eventually come to an end.

PS. On a side-note, NHB should go beyond reporting ‘large’ visitor numbers and actually somehow find out about the quality-of-visit too. For every 40 schoolkids (or 40 tourists from China who are given 30mins by their tour guide to visit a museum; most end up using the toilet only) who run riot through a museum, their ‘high’ visitorship numbers belie the ‘low’ quality of their visit.  Whereas the one visitor who spent hours in an exhibition reading every text panel is, alas, counted as only one miserable visitor.


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2 responses to “The numbers game: National Heritage Board and a game that cannot last forever

  1. Pingback: Singapore Biennale “a big hit”, according to Straits Times, 17 May 2011 | 23princessroad's Blog

  2. Pingback: You say ’5,200,000′, I say ‘huh’?: Deepika Shetty’s easy way with heritage numbers | 23princessroad's Blog

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