Article provided by National Library Board

NLB's past and ongoing exhibitions


1. Discover never-before seen maps at NLB’s Mapping the World exhibition.

Five maps you must see at the Mapping the World exhibition:

The first of its kind in Singapore, Mapping the World: Perspectives from Asian Cartography presented a precious trove of rare Asian, European and American cartographic artefacts spanning eras, cultures and traditions. Running from December 11, 2021 to May 8, 2022, the exhibition, organised together with the Embassy of France in Singapore, showcased more than 60 historical maps carefully picked from various prestigious local and international institutions. Through the lens of these historical treasures, visitors could experience how civilisations viewed themselves – and the world around them.

Some key exhibition highlights to look out for:

Cloth Painting of the Pilgrimage Centre of Shatrunjaya 

A 19th-century pata, a symbolic cloth painting, of the religious pilgrimage centre of Shatrunjaya, India. Those who were unable to visit holy sites embarked on mental pilgrimages (bhava-yatra) instead by imagining being at the sites depicted in patas.

On loan from Indian Heritage Centre, National Heritage Board. PHOTO: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

Fan with Map of China and Map of Beijing

This traditional paper fan fitted with a map on both fronts showcased China’s last imperial age, the Qing dynasty. It was made for Emperor Qianlong, whose reign saw the height of the Qing empire’s power and glory. 

Fan with Map of China and Map of Beijing - On loan from Private Collection, France. PHOTO: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

Konyo Bankoku Zenzu (Map of the Myriad Countries of the World)

Dating back to Japan's Edo era, this hand-painted map was a simplified version of the world map Kunyuwanguo quantu (坤舆万国全图). That original map from 1602 was created by Italian Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci in China, with copies sent to Japan and Korea. 

Konyo Bankoku Zenzu (Map of the Myriad Countries of the World) - On loan from Yokohama City University Library and Information Center. PHOTO: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

Plate with Map of Japan 

Abandoning ordinary Chinese motifs for contemporary and decorative designs, the map plates of 19th-century Kyushu, Japan, were unique products of the region's Arita kilns. 

Plate with Map of Japan - On loan from MacLean Collection, Illinois, USA. PHOTO: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

Double page illustration of Mecca and Medina from prayer book Dala’il al-Khayrat

A 17th-century world map featuring illustrations of two holiest sites in Islam – Mecca (right) and Medina (left) typically appear in the prayer book Dala'il al-Khayrat (Guide to Goodness). Scholars believed that such images enable the viewer to embark on mental journeys to the holy cities via memory or imagination. They also served as a symbolic map of the spiritual world, locating the centres of divine power and worship.

Exhibition details
These fascinating cartographic treasures were on display at the National Library Building’s Level 10 Gallery from December 11, 2021 to May 8, 2022.

2. Why you should check out the "New Light on an Old Tale" exhibition?

To mark the 80th anniversary this year of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese on February 15, 1942, the National Archives of Singapore has organised an exhibition, "New Light on an Old Tale", which showcases archival records as well as artefacts that bore witness to the turbulent period Singapore faced under the Japanese Occupation and World War II. 

If objects could speak…

Written records can be challenging to find. However, artefacts can also be reliable sources of historical information.

This exhibition features artefacts from private collections and archival collections which hold intimate and little-known stories about World War II. These precious items reveal otherwise unattainable facts about pivotal events which shaped Singapore’s history.

For instance, a wooden plaque from the Singapore Volunteer Rifle Corps (SVRC) tells the story of a galvanising defence force in the face of an impending invasion. In another exhibit, a Kempeitai armband from the Japanese military police sheds light on their rule of terror in occupied Singapore. 


Exhibition details

Running from February 15, to June 30, 2022, be sure to not to miss the chance to discover these rare artefacts on display for the first time publicly at the National Archives of Singapore Building (outside Oldham Theatre). The exhibition is open daily from 10am to 9pm and it is free entry for all!

3. Why you should visit "Memories of Two Cities" online exhibition?

The National Library of Singapore and the Capital Library of China have teamed up to present an online exhibition that is a blast from the past. Titled Memories of Two Cities, this free pictorial showcase takes a historical dive into Singapore and Beijing. 

Together, the institutions contributed 367 photographs that offer glimpses of bygone days in the two cities divided into various sections. Each snapshot sheds light on the respective cities’ evolution, bringing long-vanished scenes back to life. 

Singapore’s Strong Culture of Diversity

One unique trait of Singapore that has endured from its early days as a British trading post – its cultural diversity. Through the 173 photographs depicting life from the 1880s to the 1960s, Singapore's multiculturalism is on full display, especially in sections like Colourful Customs and Places of Power and Worship

Observe the different styles of weddings and their equally joyous processions. Immerse yourself in the once bustling Singapore River full of bumboats and sampans laden with wares. Whether it was festivities or funerals, at work or at play, cultural and ethnic diversity was an underlying thread that wove a shared sense of identity among the people of Singapore.

Beijing's Enduring Charm and Grandeur

China’s capital is synonymous with rich history and cultural heritage. Apart from its grand palaces and monuments, Beijing is also famed for its bustling streets and resilient common folk. 

The 194 photographs of pre-1949 Beijing trace its construction history as well as showcase the streets, shops, and lives of its people. Together, they illustrate both the spirit and splendour of this ancient city.

Old is Gold 

These rare insights are now accessible to everyone with just a few clicks. Memories of Two Cities offers a fascinating portal to the past and shows how far Beijing and Singapore have come.

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