National Archives of Singapore building reopens after 18-month revamp

The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) building reopened following an 18-month revamp, on April 7, 2019. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) building reopened its doors on Sunday (April 7) following an 18-month makeover.

The institution marks its 50th anniversary this year, and key aspects of the conserved building's original design - when it used to be the Anglo-Chinese Primary School, at 1 Canning Rise - have been reinstated, such as its scallop-shaped veranda.

"The NAS is committed to bringing Singapore's history beyond the walls of Canning Rise," Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said in a speech to mark the reopening.

"Researchers and history enthusiasts can now retrieve archival records at the click of a button from their offices or homes. Physical access to records has also been enhanced with the revamped Archives offering newer machines and a research environment that is more conducive to the needs of its users."

The NAS, an institution under the National Library Board, is the custodian of archived materials of national and historical significance.

It is home to records including more than 200,000 audiovisual recordings, five million photographs, almost 44,000 private records and copies of records from overseas.

There are also 7,500 Straits Settlements Records and other volumes.

Its collection has played an important role in supporting the Government to make informed decisions, including defending Singapore's rights under international law, said Mr Iswaran.

For instance, some of the archival records made a significant contribution to Singapore's legal claim to Pedra Branca at the International Court of Justice in 2008.

As the NAS seeks to work towards making Singapore's history more accessible to everyone, the revamped building will feature new facilities that the public can use and activities that they can join in.

Its Oldham Theatre has been expanded from a 44-seater to hold 132 people, and the Asian Film Archive (AFA) will hold regular public screenings of Asian films.

There will also be three new oral history recording studios, microfilm readers and expanded conservation labs.

A new online request system will allow users to submit requests remotely to view or ask for reproduction of copies of archival materials, instead of having to submit forms manually, as was done in the past.

Disabled access has also been improved, with levelled floors and the installation of lifts.

There will also be regular talks, guest speaker sessions, workshops and group tours open to the public.

To commemorate the NAS' 50th anniversary, a book called 50 Records From History: Highlights From The National Archives Of Singapore was launched on Sunday.

It features 50 specially curated historical items from the NAS' vast holdings of over 10 million records, some of which date back to the early 1800s. They have been selected to tell the story of Singapore's journey from a trading port to nationhood.

The items include the 1885 building plan of Bras Basah Road and North Bridge Road shophouses, 1890s postcards featuring merchants and hawkers, an 1898 map of Singapore, 1903 gramophone music recordings and war hero Lim Bo Seng's diary.

The NAS building's atrium also boasts the contents of a time capsule left behind by Anglo-Chinese Primary School (ACS) in 1956. The time capsule was discovered last year when the building was renovated and it contained items such as copies of the Government Gazette, the ACS Magazine and several Singapore newspapers from that year.

The NAS did not reveal the cost of the revamp.

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