Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rare Gallery and Lee Kong Chian Reference Library tour

As part of National Library Board's (NLB) 20th anniversary celebration, I sign for their Rare Gallery and Lee Kong Chian Reference Library tour! The tour was led by Ong Eng Chuan, who is in charge of the Rare Collection.

Named after Dr Lee Kong Chian in honour of the Lee Foundation's S$60 million donation, the reference library is the premier resource for works on or about Singapore and the region.

The Lee Kong Chian Reference Library occupies 7 storeys (Levels 7-13) at the National Library Building. The start-up collection size exceeds 530,000 print and non-print materials. It has a full range of services, such as access to electronic databases, document delivery service, reprography, microfilm and audio-visual access are available.
We were told that the library had high ceilings because it plans to expand its collection all the way to the top! I can't wait for that day to come.

We were told that all local publications has to give 2 copies to the library. One copy would be stored here and the other will be distributed to one of its branch. The reference library on the ground floor is open to public but the books here cannot be loaned out. You may want to do your reading or research here though.

I borrowed a copy of Nini Eat First Talk Later at a branch library and it was stamped with the word "GIFT" Is this the one of the copies given to the library? 

Serious researchers may want to write in to read or examine the rarer books on the upper floors, where there are individual cubicles to work in.There is a dark microfilm room with reading machines to view microfilm archives. Rare books can sometimes be accessed this way; the only reason why the actual copy is kept from just any person is because of preservation purposes.
Next we come to the Rare Collection which is normally inaccessible to the public. The materials located here are preserved under controlled temperature, humidity and light settings. The oldest book in in the Rare Collection is dated back to the 1500s.

Mr Ong elaborates on some of the collection on display.

Inheritance from the Raffles Museum and Library. Look at how these are stored in casing.
Below are some of the exhibits we saw.
Scroll addressed to Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, by the Singapore Chinese merchants on the occasion of his visit to Singapore in 1869. It was signed by several prominent business man such as Tan Kim Seng

A Malay translation of the Chinese classic"Romance of the 3 Kingdoms " These books were popular among the Straits Chinese Peranakan.

The autobiography of Munshi Abdullah Abdul Kadir – a translator employed by Raffles – which gives an account of the early days of the East India Company settlement of Singapore. Written in Jawi, his memoir is a valuable Asian account of the founding of the British settlement by one who was familiar with the British administrators.

Letter from Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles to Lord Lansdowne , displays his pride of finding the settlement

The journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, Volume VI. On display is a detailed sketch of one of our lighthouses, do you know which one is it?

Old maps, ancient books and postcards were on display
Some of these materials were exhibited in exhibitions. Eg, some of the displayed maps were on displayed in the recent Geo|Graphic: Celebrating maps and their stories exhibition which ended in July this year.I believe the library would conduct the tour again in another 5 years time to celebrate its  25th anniversary.


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