Parliament: Revamped National Archives building, NLB exhibition to mark Bicentennial

An artist's impression of the revamped National Archives of Singapore building, which will reopen at Canning Rise in April 2019. PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - The Bicentennial commemoration is meant to help Singaporeans understand the Republic's early history and reflect on the future, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Monday (March 4).

Mr Iswaran, who was speaking in Parliament during the debate on his ministry's budget, noted that the National Library Board (NLB) will be stepping up efforts this year - 200 years since the arrival of the British in Singapore - to give the public access to archival materials.

He highlighted the revamped National Archives of Singapore (NAS) building, which closed in 2017 for renovations and reopens at Canning Rise next month.

Its improved facilities include three new oral history recording studios as well as the Oldham Theatre, which will be opened to the public and regularly screen films curated by the Asian Film Archive.

The public will be able to go on tours of the building's conservation laboratories, which were previously not conducive for hosting crowds.

The NAS will also be launching an e-request system, which will allow members of the public to request for access to or reproduction of records in its collection more easily, and track the status of their requests.

The NLB's other efforts to engage with Singaporeans include presentations from the National Library's rare materials collection, such as a mini-exhibition on Monday and Tuesday at Parliament House.

The exhibition displayed 16 items, including a map of Singapura drawn in 1604 for a Portuguese manuscript that shows recognisable names such as Tanamera (Tanah Merah) and Sunebodo (Sungei Bedok), an 1883 Chinese-Malay dictionary and a copy of Munajathu Thirattu, the National Library's oldest Tamil book on Islamic religious poetry.

The exhibition will be available to the public at the National Library Building from 10am to 9pm this Saturday and Sunday (March 9 and 10).

In a series of 25 videos to be released fortnightly from April on NLB's social media channels, librarians will discuss highlights from the collection, including Munajathu Thirattu and Hikayat Abdullah, the autobiography of 19th-century scholar Munsyi Abdullah, who was Raffles' scribe.

"When we talk about the (Bicentennial) commemoration, our larger purpose is to get Singaporeans to understand the journey we have made over the last 200 years but really going back beyond that," said Mr Iswaran at a media preview of the exhibition.

"That awareness is important in establishing our own identity in a world where we have an onslaught of digital influences, understanding where we have come from and what has shaped our pathways," he added.

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