“To achieve a genuinely shared memory, rather than a common memory made up of assorted aggregates, communication is essential for opening up the process of remembering to a multitude of voices, instead of indoctrination”.
In their monograph, Heritage, Memory, and Punishment: Remembering Colonial Prisons in East Asia, Shu-Mei Huang and Hyun Kyung Lee introduce the concept of “corrective remembering” to uncover the motivations and implications of post-colonial prison museum developments in East Asia. The idea of correction is seen by the two authors as an attempt to modify, forget, or reimagine experiences of colonial incarceration in order to fit a political or ideological post-war narrative. For example, the heritagisation of Seodaemun Prison and its Independence Park formed part of a narrative of Korean victory and independence against Japanese. The authors argue that this rigid narrative was applied at the expense of other aspects of Seodaemun’s heritage, such as the Okbaraji neighbourhood, which was abandoned and demolished. The concept of “corrective remembering” is chosen by the authors for three reasons, which they clearly reveal. Firstly, it pays tribute to the corrective form of punishment deployed in the prisons. Secondly, it aims to reveal the alterations made to the memory of the prisons when they were converted into museum pieces. Finally, the notion of correction can be used to describe the heritagisation of prisons which involves the removal and displacement of former structures and residents, where the “logic of punishment is reactivated” as part of a post-colonial ideology. These three definitions of “corrective remembering” are valuable for an understanding of the construction of heritage in post-colonial states, where layers of obscurity and reimagination conceal the real force of collective memory.
These three definitions of “corrective remembering” can be applied to the case of Singapore’s Changi Prison and Chapel. The prison complex was constructed in 1933 but was converted into a prisoner of war (POW) camp at the start of the Japanese occupation of 1942. After the war, the prison was used by the British for the internment and execution of Japanese generals and prison officers.
The reconstruction of the prison and its chapel into a museum was charted in the Straits Times Newspaper in 1987. In this report, the memory of the chapel is described as a place of “spiritual solace and temporary refuge from the havoc of war”. This peaceful depiction contrasts with the reports of the Malaya Tribune from 1946, which describes the reality of the environment that Japanese POWs had to endure. Within proximity to the church, prisoners lived in “specially erected gallows” where they “languished”, awaiting execution. The contrast in the reports exemplifies both the “corrective” aspect of POW punishment and the “corrective” remembering of the event. In modern memory, the church becomes the focal point of the Changi Prison complex as the newspaper description imprints an imaginative vision of peace which separates the environment of the prison from the realities of war. By contrast, contemporary reports suggest that the “havoc of war” still invaded the physical compound of the prison. The detained were subject to corrective policies of confinement, torture, and ultimately execution, which deprived them of their national identity by means of segregation from the outside world. This demonstrates that a psychological spatial reordering was implemented on the opening of the Changi Prison Museum and Chapel, whereby the “corrective” policies of the Changi Prison were obscured in favour of a peaceful remembering of relief from war- a removal of the “underbelly” of the past.
“The historical museum…will also house a souvenir centre selling items made by the prisoners”. This aspect of the 1987 report is demonstrative of the authors theory that punishment is “reactivated” upon the heritagisation of prisons. The prominence of the POW experience in popular consciousness is reflected in the sale of souvenirs which provide the tourist with a physical connection to the prisoner. The current-day Changi Museum even contains a box of sand from the nearby beach where the Chinese were massacred. This consumption of horror legitimises the visitor experience by acting as physical proof, rather than psychological understanding, of the POW experience. It is, however, not exclusive to the modern-day experience. In the 1946 Malaya Tribute, two articles described, in graphic detail, the lead-up and execution of Japanese POWs. One was entitled ‘How Condemned Japs Spend their Last Days: Appetite Good Even on Execution’. The other described in graphic detail, the hanging of the Japanese. These historic articles sensationalised the loss of human life, where the prison appeared as an observatory for cruelty, the act of which was somehow disconnected with life beyond the prison walls. The newspaper reports themselves, therefore, are reflective of the “corrective remembering” that Shu-Mei Huang and Hyun Kyung Lee speak of, as they form part of the rewriting of the Changi Prison’s history. The prison embodied “multiple and shifting identities”, which were amended and rearranged in the physical offerings of the Museum and its memorabilia, but also its presentation in contemporary newspaper articles. As historians, it is important to uncover, acknowledge, and publicise these layered identities in order to revisit the past and its collective memory as accurately as possible. Shu-Mei Huang and Hyun Kyung Lee’s theory of “corrective remembering” is an excellent framework to begin the task.
 Shu-Mei Huang, Hyun Kyung Lee, Heritage, Memory and Punishment: Remembering Colonial Prisons in East Asia, (London 2019), p.155.
 Ibid, p.28.
 Ibid, p.92.
 Ibid, p.26.
 Joan Beaumont, ‘Contested Trans‐national Heritage: The Demolition of Changi Prison, Singapore’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 15, no.4, (2009).
 ‘STBP Builds Replica of Changi Prison Chapel’, Straits Times, Overseas Ed., 12 September 1987, p.24, <Newspaper Article – STPB builds replica of Changi Prison chapel, Straits Times (Overseas ed), 12 September 1987, Page 24 (nlb.gov.sg)> [accessed: 28 January 2022].
 ‘Jap War Criminals Hanged at Changi’, Malaya Tribune, 14 March 1946, p.4/1, <Newspaper Article – JAP WAR CRIMINALS HANGED AT CHANGI, Malaya Tribune, 14 March 1946, Page 4/1 (nlb.gov.sg)> [accessed: 28 January 2022].
 Beaumont, ‘Contested Trans‐national Heritage’, p.299.
 ‘STBP Builds Replica of Changi Prison Chapel’, p.24.
 Beaumont, ‘Contested Trans‐national Heritage’, p.308.
 ‘Jap War Criminals Hanged at Changi’, p.4/1. ‘How Condemned Japs Spend Their Last Days’, Malaya Tribune, 30 May 1946, p.2, <Newspaper Article – How Condemned Japs Spend Their Last Days, Malaya Tribune, 30 May 1946, Page 2 (nlb.gov.sg)> [accessed 28 January 2022].
 Beaumont, ‘Contested Trans‐national Heritage’, p.299.