Singapore's prevailing historical narrative has centred on its position as a port city. So it is easy to forget about its natural riches. Colonial interest in the region has always been driven by South-east Asia's rich resources. Among the crew of Sir Stamford Raffles' ship which landed here in 1819 were two French naturalists, Alfred Duvaucel and Pierre Medard Diard, hired to document the flora and fauna. Singapore once had thriving gambier and pepper plantations that supplied both China and Britain, and the Botanic Gardens hosted research that led to a booming rubber industry. The country's much-neglected natural history is being slowly rediscovered this year, with a string of well-researched shows.
There was the National Museum of Singapore's A Voyage Of Love And Longing which repurposed the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings to showcase the arts and culture of the region's indigenous people; the opening of the new Botanical Art Gallery at Inverturret, Gallop House; and the recently concluded Human x Nature: Environmental Histories of Singapore at the National Library which offered a massive overview of Singapore's environmental history.