Postcards by literary greats among items donated to library

One of the postcards showing the correspondence between literary pioneers Muhammad Ariff Ahmad and Masuri S. N. during the Japanese Occupation. A screen shot from a digitised home movie with scenes of Singapore in 1959, donated by Lucasfilm Singapore
A screen shot from a digitised home movie with scenes of Singapore in 1959, donated by Lucasfilm Singapore creative director Nigel Sumner. The recording was made by his great-uncle, Mr Ken Illsley, a British soldier stationed in Singapore from 1957 to 1959.PHOTOS: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD
One of the postcards showing the correspondence between literary pioneers Muhammad Ariff Ahmad and Masuri S. N. during the Japanese Occupation. A screen shot from a digitised home movie with scenes of Singapore in 1959, donated by Lucasfilm Singapore
One of the postcards showing the correspondence between literary pioneers Muhammad Ariff Ahmad and Masuri S. N. during the Japanese Occupation.PHOTOS: NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD

Both Mr Muhammad Ariff Ahmad and Mr Masuri S. N. are recognised as titans and pioneers of Malay literature and who were firm friends since their teenage years.

Now, old postcards they exchanged from the 1940s that capture their conversations about daily life during the Japanese Occupation are part of the National Library's collection and can be viewed by a wider audience.

The postcards, donated by the family of the late Mr Ariff, who died in 2016, are among the more than 10,000 items donated by individuals to the National Library and National Archives of Singapore from March last year to March this year.

Mr Ariff's family also donated his letters and scripts for Malay radio programmes to the library.

Madam Shahrulbariah Muhammad Arif, Mr Ariff's daughter, said she hopes the donation would allow a wider group of people to view the material. "These are primary sources to see how Malay literature has developed," she added.

She was among the donors at an appreciation dinner hosted by the library and archives last night, which was attended by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran.

Mr Iswaran said he wanted to "encourage community groups to work together to collect materials of historical significance on their own heritage and to contribute where possible". He added that both the library and archives have been seeking to grow their repository of books and archival materials.

"As we continue to write Singapore's story together, it is important that we harness the diversity, passions and expertise of individuals and communities to keep records of our history and heritage, so that we may never forget how we came to be," he said.

 
 
 

Other notable contributions include handwritten scores and scripts of music personality Dick Lee from his productions Beauty World, Fried Rice Paradise and Forbidden City. Mr Lee donated about 480 items, including a comprehensive collection compiled by his father, Mr Lee Kip Lee, of essays and stories the younger Mr Lee had written as a student.

Other donated materials now in the library's and archives' collections include private records, business documents, manuscripts, maps, photographs and films.

Ms Tan Huism, director of the National Library, said donors' generous gifts of over 10,000 materials over the past year captured a broad range of Singapore's histories.

"From footage of coolies at work along the Singapore River to musical scores, rare books and maps that place Singapore within the wider region, these donations are invaluable collections that will be preserved so that they can be shared by all today and in the future," she said.

"We hope that other individuals and organisations will be equally inspired to donate their precious material to us for research and enjoyment."

Some of the other items donated that were on display include:

•Noveau Voyage Autour Du Monde (A New Voyage Round The World) donated by Nanyang Technological University academic Farish Noor. The 1717 French edition of a map in a book contains a translation of English explorer William Dampier's journey around the world from 1683 to 1691, one of a few historical sources that describe pre-colonial Singapore. Dampier recorded sailing through the Strait of Singapore and encountering Orang Laut who sold fruits and fish to passing vessels.

•Veteran Chinese writer Tian Liu's schedule book, donated by his family. He was vice-chairman of the Singapore Association of Writers and adviser to various literary societies in Singapore in the 1970s.

•An excerpt from musician Lalitha Vaidyanathan's scores from the Hamsadhwani overture, performed for Cinema Raagas at the Esplanade Concert Hall in 2009, donated by Mrs Lalitha for the Digital Archives of Singapore Tamil Music.

•Singapore Scenes donated by Mr Nigel Sumner, creative director at Lucasfilm Singapore. Shot on Super 8mm film, the digitised home movie contains scenes of Singapore in 1959 just before Mr Sumner's great-uncle, Mr Ken Illsley, returned to England with his family. Mr Illsley was a British soldier stationed in Singapore from 1957 to 1959.

•Condensed milk purchase permit donated by retiree Chiang Poh Long. Such ration cards reflected food shortages during the Japanese Occupation, and the condensed milk permit was issued by the Food Control Office on June 11, 1942, to a child who was born on Jan 25,1942.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2019, with the headline 'Postcards by literary greats among items donated to library'. Print Edition | Subscribe