Paging through history - at a click

Everything, from The Birds Of Singapore Island to Malay Poisons And Charm Cures, is just a click away.

A partnership between the National Library Board (NLB) and the Smithsonian-led "virtual library" has seen more than 100 rare manuscripts from the Republic being digitised and made available online as part of the international Biodiversity Heritage Library.

But there is more interesting material in the NLB's research and resource centre - the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, also known as the National Library.

It has close to 700,000 items in its collection, and boasts early European voyage and travel accounts that provide glimpses of life in the region.

The National Library is also home to a Rare Collection, which has close to 13,000 items, some of which are valuable and significant publications from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The books are not for loan and are kept in a special climate-controlled room with a stable temperature of 18 to 20 deg C, a relative humidity of 50 to 55 per cent and reduced light intensity, said Mr Ong Eng Chuan, 45, NLB's senior librarian of exhibitions, curation and rare collection.

"To further protect the books from environmental deterioration, (they) are kept in special acid-free archival boxes," he said.

But efforts are being made to share the knowledge held within the spines of these books.

Other than NLB's contribution to scan and publish online biodiversity-related rare titles to the Biodiversity Heritage Library, it is also working to digitise and make available public titles on the National Library's BookSG website at printheritage/

Said Mr Ong: "It gives me a great sense of satisfaction, contributing to the preservation and development of this collection for the generations now and in the future to increase their knowledge and understanding of Singapore's history."

Audrey Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2016, with the headline 'Paging through history - at a click'. Print Edition | Subscribe