Over 27000 Historical Materials Donated to National Library Board

When the Bintang-Timor English-language newspaper was published in Singapore, back in 1858, it had such a short lifespan that it was unrecorded by any public institution. That has finally changed, thanks to donors Cynthia and John Koh who donated an extremely scarce copy of this hitherto forgotten paper to the National Library Board (NLB). The publication will now live on as part of Singapore’s documentary heritage, along with more than 27,000 items donated by 160 donors over the past two years.

The donations received by NLB include manuscripts and typescripts of songs, plays and research of the late Tamil literary pioneer Kavithaivel Ka Perumal, Peranakan plays and Malay authors and playwrights. There are also old photographs of Singapore’s first public housing estates, and historical records by the country’s early Chinese clan associations.

These precious materials are part of NLB’s ongoing efforts to engage the community in capturing the Singapore experience for posterity. Every year, NLB receives tens of thousands of donations from donors located in Singapore and abroad. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NLB has continued to receive a generous number of donations from April 2019 to March 2021. The variety of donations, which cover business and arts to social, cultural and community history, help bring such private collections into public benefit, for the purposes of reference and research about Singapore’s rich history and heritage.

Mr Ng Cher Pong, NLB’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “We thank our generous donors for these valuable donations that have enriched our collections on Singapore’s documentary heritage. Through these historical materials in varied formats, we can share compelling stories of Singapore’s progress and rich culture with Singaporeans today, as well as with our future generations.”

Donations received in the past two years include materials from the following donors:

  1. Cynthia and John Koh donated a rare 1858 issue of Bintang-Timor, an English language newspaper published in Singapore, and an annotated, translated proof of the 1868 first English edition of Max Havelaar (by Eduard Douwes Dekker), as well as over 500 volumes of Chinese comics distributed in Singapore and Malaya between the 1940s to 1960s.
  2. Family of the late Kavithaivel Ka Perumal, a Tamil literary pioneer donated 85 items comprising manuscripts of his plays, short stories and poems from the 1950s and 1960s. These materials serve as important research resources and insights into the livelihoods of the people of Malaya and Singapore in the 1940s to 1960s.
  3. Djamal Tukimin, a veteran Malay writer and Cultural Medallion recipient, donated more than 100 sets of materials, including typescripts and manuscripts of his works as well as conference papers.
  4. Gunong Sayang Association, a Peranakan cultural organisation founded in 1910, donated a total of 40 items comprising video recordings and scripts from Gunong Sayang Association‘s wayang productions. The productions are performed using Peranakan patois (Baba Malay) or Hokkien, and feature Peranakan customs and traditions surrounding special occasions.
  5. Singapore Textiles Traders Association, established in 1908, is one of the earliest registered trade guilds in Singapore. The Association donated 47 historical records relating to the trade guild, comprising account books (the earliest of which is dated 1912), minutes of meetings, members’ directories and attendance books dating from the 1940s to 1990s.
  6. Koh Kim Chay, a hobbyist photographer and postcard collector, donated 7,604 physical photographs and digitised images of Singapore’s vanished public housing estates (covering the first public housing estates, such as the Upper Pickering Street flats and Princess Estate in Queenstown) as well as digitised old Singapore postcards and prints.
  7. Dr Loh Kah Seng, a historian and author, donated 28 oral history interviews with doctors, nurses and patients from the former Middleton Hospital and Communicable Disease Centre, which is now known as the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Please refer to Annex A for more details on the donated items mentioned above, and Annex B for other key donations received.

NLB welcomes donations that will enrich our collection on Singapore and Southeast Asia from both individuals and organisations. We are keen to collect published and unpublished materials, including primary materials such as those documenting the lives and activities of various local communities during the early colonial period, on early businesses and trades and on our arts heritage, as well as contemporary materials. These include personal papers, letters, business and organisational documents, manuscripts and typescripts, maps, ephemera and photographs. Members of the public with an interest to donate may contact us by filling the online donation form available on our website.

About National Library Board
The National Library Board (NLB) nurtures Readers for Life, Learning Communities and a Knowledgeable Nation by promoting reading, learning and history through its network of 27 public libraries, the National Library and the National Archives of Singapore. NLB also forges strategic partnerships that encourage awareness, appreciation and greater discovery of Singapore’s history through its rich collections on Singapore and the region.

NLB achieves excellence through innovation, focusing on citizen engagement and co-creation, resource and digital innovation. This creates learning opportunities, greater access to library resources, services, and archival collections, as well as a continual development of innovative library spaces. Established on 1 September 1995 as a statutory board, NLB is under the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).

For more information, please visit the NLB website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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