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Tan Huism

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Welcome to the final issue of BiblioAsia for the year. Do make time to visit the National Library’s latest exhibition, “On Paper: Singapore Before 1867”, which takes place at level 10 of the National Library building until March 2020. We preview several paper-based artefacts – four paintings, two poems in Jawi script, a map and a Russian travelogue – that feature in the exhibition capturing Singapore’s history from the 17th century to when it became a British Crown Colony on 1 April 1867. Many of the artefacts in the exhibition, some of which are on loan from overseas institutions, are on public display for the first time. The first practical method of creating permanent images with a camera was unveiled to the world by Frenchman Louis Daguerre in 1839, so it is no surprise that Europeans dominated the photography business in 19th-century Singapore. Some of the earliest images of landscapes…

This issue of BiblioAsia presents yet another selection of diverse and, hopefully, riveting essays for your reading pleasure. Writing is an art form that is increasingly sidelined in this digital world of truncated emails and text messages. Novelist Meira Chand looks back at her collection of written manuscripts – filled with random notes and scribblings on the margins – and ponders over their value in a time where writers have gone paperless. In not dissimilar vein, K.U. Menon pores over letters written by government officials in postwar Singapore as part of a declassification project by the National Archives, and rues the death of elegant writing. Still on the subject of authorship, Farish Noor’s essay on the violence inflicted by the British on the people and lands they colonised in Southeast Asia and its glaring omission in 19th-century writings – including those by Stamford Raffles – provide much food for thought.…

April 2019 is a special month for the National Archives of Singapore (NAS). After an 18-month makeover, the NAS building at Canning Rise re-opened on 7 April with a slew of upgraded facilities for the public. As the NAS’ year-long 50th anniversary celebrations that began in June 2018 draw to a conclusion, we will mark its close by hosting the SARBICA* International Symposium from 24–28 June 2019. This special edition of BiblioAsia puts the spotlight on all things archives. In his op-ed, Dr Shashi Jayakumar describes how recent initiatives undertaken by the NAS prepare the organisation – as well as Singapore – for the future. Eric Chin examines the role of the archives in providing evidence and the value this has for Singapore – from resolving the landmark Pedra Branca dispute to helping bring the past to life for today’s generation. Fiona Tan remembers some of the pioneers who started…

Welcome to the first issue of BiblioAsia for 2019. This year we mark a major turning point in Singapore’s history, the 200th anniversary of the founding of a British trading post on the island – a date generally accepted as the beginnings of modern Singapore. It is common knowledge that Stamford Raffles and his deputy William Farquhar landed on Singapore on 28 January 1819 and later negotiated with the Temenggong to set up a settlement on the island. Most history books highlight Raffles’ role in the subsequent development of Singapore into a flourishing port and gloss over Farquhar’s contributions. Nadia Wright attempts to set the record straight in this issue’s cover story. Even so, Singapore’s history did not begin with Raffles’ arrival in 1819: it goes back some 500 years earlier. Tan Tai Yong provides a brief history of Singapore since the 14th century when Temasek – as the island…