Ten Years of Bringing Hong Kong History to Life

Fanny Iu, Executive Director of Hong Kong Heritage Project

For the past 10 years, The Hong Kong Heritage Project (HKHP) has been working hard to preserve historically significant documents and artefacts in a fast-paced city, where the past is often too soon forgotten in its rush to the future. Fanny Iu, Executive Director of HKHP, looks back with CLP.CONNECT on the project’s first decade.

In 2007, Sir Michael Kadoorie embarked on a historic mission by establishing HKHP to “save the past for the future”. The project has since drawn together an impressive collection of archives and oral history testimonies, covering a large canvas of Hong Kong’s history and heritage for sharing with our fellow citizens, especially the younger generation.

A shared history

The Hung Hom Heritage Walk provides an opportunity for participants to learn more about Hung Hom’s history

Founded with an aim to preserve the corporate records of the Kadoorie Family whose history has been closely intertwined with the development of Hong Kong over the past century, HKHP has gradually evolved to become a respected organisation that boasts a unique in-house archive and a wide range of outreach programmes aimed to promote heritage awareness.

Fanny shares with us one recent example of how HKHP has endeavoured to make history relevant and accessible to the public at large. “Earlier this year we designed and curated the Hung Hom Heritage Walk for the media, local students, CLP employees and the general public. A series of ‘strolls down memory lane’ were conducted by a professional tour guide who used many interesting anecdotes to offer the participants a glimpse into the yesteryears of a district they know so well in the present day. The Walk has attracted 300 participants from 15 tours in total, and the response from CLP employees was overwhelming. So we are going to introduce a few more rounds exclusively for their benefit.”

Eye on Hong Kong

History is about people, and HKHP’s archives indeed comprise fascinating life stories of individuals who had helped shape Hong Kong into what it is today. One such individual is the late Lord Lawrence Kadoorie, father of Sir Michael. In the post-war years he was one of the architects of Hong Kong’s modern economy, not only through his business leadership and philanthropic activities, but also from the crucial role he played in encouraging the colonial administration to take the difficult decisions needed to support both Hong Kong’s immediate needs at the time and its long term development.

“Eye On Hong Kong” Exhibition opening ceremony

Lord Lawrence Kadoorie with his miniature 8mm Minox camera

Beyond the demand of his very busy schedule, Lord Kadoorie was a man of many interests, one of them being photography. As a keen amateur photographer, he would regularly carry a miniature 8mm Minox camera with him as he went about his life in Hong Kong in the 1950s. “The Eye on Hong Kong exhibition we held recently pays homage to Lord Kadoorie by showcasing more than 60 of his photographs of post-war Hong Kong, most of them previously unpublished,” says Fanny. “These photographs depict daily lives, changing landscapes and fast-paced economic and infrastructure development during that period, as Hong Kong people set about restoring, rebuilding and renewing their home after the war. Many of these photographs show how, despite Lord Kadoorie’s own success, he remained familiar with life as it was lived by so many of his fellow citizens.”

HKHP as publisher

HKHP’s second publication “Student Oral History Project – Professionalism in Hong Kong”

HKHP published its first book The Development History of Post-war New Territories back in 2016. At the end of this year, a second publication, Student Oral History Project – Professionalism in Hong Kong, will be launched. It is a collection of the oral history interviews conducted by students as part of HKHP’s Young Historian Programme (YHP). “Oral history testimonies are history based on personal experiences, opinions, and memories, and they form an integral part of the HKHP Archive,” Fanny explains. “Those oral history exercises connected our young historians with industry elites, and we were thrilled to see the extraordinary interactions across generations. The resulting dialogues are both thought-provoking and heart-warming and are definitely worth recording.”

The next 10 years

HKHP’s future office will reside at CLP’s Clock Tower

As HKHP celebrates its tenth anniversary, Fanny is looking to the decade ahead and hopes to expand the project to the broader Hong Kong community.

“We expect HKHP to build on its first decade and continue its mission of bringing Hong Kong’s past into the present. After all, history never ends and Hong Kong will keep adding new chapters to its remarkable history. We also look forward to playing our part in an ever-broadening collaboration between business, the professions, education and the community as a whole in enhancing the awareness of our history and heritage,” Fanny says.