Repurposed by Eason Pek

autograph book with photo of friend
“Remember me…”
An autograph book with a quote and an old photo of a friend

Writing on each other’s autograph books used to be a widely-followed campus tradition. That’s how classmates exchanged contact details, shared memories, words of appreciation and encouragements, as well as mementos like pictures, neoprints, bookmarks or celebrity stickers before parting ways.

But the tradition has since taken a back seat. With social media, we can now just “follow” our friends, create class pages on Facebook or Instagram, or keep everyone in chat groups, rendering the autograph books redundant.

autograph book with story of secondary school life
An page from an autograph book recalling experiences between two close friends.

Mr Daniel Tan, 37, also keeps his secondary school autograph book from 20 years ago. The yellowed pages are filled with friendship poems and parting messages, some written in calligraphy and others with colored pens and markers. Some of his classmates included pictures of themselves while others doodled away. The book “reminds you of who you were back then, the good and the bad”, said Mr Tan. “It’s one of those things that you cannot replace.”

For Ms Wee Li Lin, making her own autograph book isn’t enough. She’s gone one step further to make a nostalgic short film, My Autograph Book. The director said she wanted to use the film to capture the idea of friendship.

Autograph book with a poem
Photo from short film My Autograph Book by Ms Wee Li Lin.

“Each autograph captures the character of who that person is,” said Ms Wee. “If you sign in my book, you would write me a poem that encapsulates who you are and what our friendship means.”

She also added that the autograph book is like a “healing book”, as it’s where schoolmates could jot down best wishes for one another regardless of what had happened during their school years.

Mr Stanley Tan and Ms Antoinette Wong, founders of the little dröm store, also miss the autograph book tradition. They are selling a collection of notebooks, with design elements that are inspired by their autograph books.

autograph book detailing favourites
Autograph books were a way for people to connect.

Mr Tan said: “We’re trying to remember all the little things that we would do in that given space within the little book, like using highlighters to add color, writing a secret message inside a folded corner of the page and writing ‘open me’ on the outside.”

He hopes this gives people a chance to “take a break from social media, to take a step back and look and how people used to connect with one another”.

autograph book end
A colorfully decorated “Keep in touch!” at the end of an autograph book