Arts Picks: Exhibitions at National Library, Esplanade

The National Library's latest exhibition is a detailed survey on Singapore's natural history.
The National Library's latest exhibition is a detailed survey on Singapore's natural history.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

History X Nature: Environmental Histories of Singapore

The National Library has been putting together some very comprehensive exhibitions in recent years. The latest is a detailed survey on Singapore's natural history, as documented in various publications and rare books in its collection.

This year has already seen two new exhibits on this topic but the library's show is literally a fount of information. In fact, there is such a embarassment of riches that this show will need at least two, if not three, visits.

A lot of reading is needed to get through the chunky captions packed with anecdotes about colonial naturalists, their approach to cataloguing Singapore's flora and fauna, as well as post-independent policies about the environment.

There is an effort to include diversity in the documentation, acknowledging the contributions of indigenous experts such as Malayan botanist Mohamed Haniff and Ceylon-born James De Alwis, the Botanic Gardens' first resident illustrator.

Besides lovely maps and prints, there are also the specimens borrowed from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Look out for the intriguing photographs of native tiger traps and hunters accompanying the eye-catching stuffed Malayan tiger display.

This info-dump could perhaps have been edited and streamlined. But that is a minor quibble as the trivia nerd in me revels in the multitude of nuggets buried in the show.

Where: Level 10 Gallery, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street

When: Till Sept 26, 9am to 10pm daily

MRT: Bugis

Admission: Free

Info: National Library's website 

Generation M: The Music Made Us

Pop culture is often overlooked or dismissed in serious institutions, so it is a pleasure to see this small show at library  @  Esplanade.

This collection of anecdotes and artefacts from home-grown musicians spans a wide range of genres and generations.

It is fun to see veteran songstress Rahimah Rahim's spangled baju and punk musician Suhaimi Subandie immortalised in an action figure by toymaker Daniel Yu.

The brief panels with quotes by the musicians offer soundbite-sized introductions to the cultural contexts of their times, as well as insights into their careers.

Visitors can scan the QR codes for more detailed write-ups, videos and Spotify playlists on the Esplanade's website.

A nice sampler of Singapore's musical talents over the years.

Where: Library  @   Esplanade, 03-01 Esplanade, 8 Raffles Avenue

When: Till June 6, 11am to 9pm, closed on public holidays

MRT: Esplanade

Admission: Free

Info: Esplanade's website