Director’s Note (Jan - Mar 2016)
We welcome 2016 with a new exhibition titled “From the Stacks: Highlights of the National Library”. Taking place from 30 January to 28 August at level 10 of the National Library Building, the exhibition curates over 100 unique items that many people have likely never seen before.
These rare materials – books, manuscripts, letters, photographs, maps and newspapers that have been painstakingly collected and preserved for nearly a century and a half – weave a colourful tapestry of Singapore’s short but intriguing history.
Largely drawn from the National Library’s 11,000-strong Rare Materials Collection, the exhibits cover a diverse range of material, from politics, history, sociology, language and religion to current affairs, nature, travel and food. Several of the items on display at the exhibition predate the founding of Singapore, with the earliest, an English-Malay dictionary written by an unlikely Englishman, dating back to 1701.
It is appropriate that this issue of BiblioAsia turns the spotlight on 50 highlights of the Rare Materials Collection, many of which are on display at the exhibition. Each article, researched and written by a librarian, contains a detailed description of the rare item as well as interesting information on its history and provenance.
Rounding off this issue are three additional features that relate to the exhibition. Curator Chung Sang Hong explains why the exhibition is called “From the Stacks” (in case you’re wondering) and tells why you should pencil in this must-visit event in your diary.
There are 26 Public Libraries in Singapore, and chances are most people are familiar with the one in their neighbourhood. Few are aware that the National Library has a different set of responsibilities, one of which is the collection and preservation of materials relating to Singapore’s history and heritage. Be sure to read Senior Librarian Ong Eng Chuan’s overview of the National Library’s Rare Materials Collection. The National Library has been acquiring rare and important items since 1874, in the days when it was known as the Raffles Library and Museum.
Yet another special function of the National Library is Legal Deposit, which has been in place since 1958. Ivy Lee explains what Legal Deposit is about and how pivotal it has become in preserving Singapore’s published heritage.
Finally, since we are on the subject of books, Amelia Tan tells you about the SG50 Gift of Books initiative, through which Singapore’s published heritage has been shared with some 40 libraries all over the world.
2016 also marks the beginning of an exciting journey for me as the new Director of the National Library. It is a privilege to be leading such an august institution, and I am particularly pleased that BiblioAsia has provided this opportunity to showcase some of our work.
We hope you enjoy reading this special edition of BiblioAsia as much as we did in putting it together for you.
Mrs Wai Yin Pryke