Explore Singapore’s environmental history

Explore Singapore’s environmental history

If you find Singapore’s parks too crowded for your liking, consider a new way of exploring nature in Singapore. The National Library Board’s new biodiversity exhibition, Human x Nature: Environmental Histories of Singapore, offers a fascinating look at Man’s relationship with nature through natural history books, botanical prints, photographs, and multimedia displays. Bonus: you won’t have to break sweat to have a close encounter with the natural world.

The free exhibition is held at the National Library Building in Victoria Street until 26 Sep. Here are five highlights from the exhibition:

The Ichthyological Atlas of the Dutch East Indies

Atlas ichthyologique national library building

This colourful drawing of tropical fish belongs to a nine-volume series of colour-illustrated ichthyological studies. The series was published by ichthyologist and medical doctor Pieter Bleeker in the 1860s and 1870s, and it contains 1,500 illustrations of fish. It is one of the largest compilations on fish in the region and a copy of the series is in the collection of the National Library.

Book about Malay village medicine

Malay Village Medicine-Prescriptions collected by Burkhill and Haniff national library building

This 1930 book is one of the rare publications on Malay medicine that includes information on how medicinal plants were used by bomohs (local medical practitioners) and bidans (midwives). The valuable record of botanical knowledge was gathered by botanists Isaac Henry Burkhill and Mohamed Haniff from Malay communities across the Malay peninsula, and it includes a glossary of Malay names for the plants, alongside their scientific names.

Juvenile Tapir Specimen

tapir national library building

The first British resident of Singapore, William Farquhar, was particularly interested in studying the tapir, and even kept it as a pet for six months. Farquhar had sought to be among the first in the peninsula of Malacca to provide an account of a new species of tapir in Melaka in the 1820s. The specimen of the tapir, with its signature white-spotted brown coat, is displayed alongside the book Asiatic Researches, Vol. XIII No. XI, which provides detailed accounts of a new species of tapir in the peninsula of Malacca, co-authored by Farquhar.

The Story Of The Rubber Industry In Malaya

The story of the rubber industry

The pamphlet from 1905 is authored by the first director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Henry Nicholas Ridley. When he was the Garden’s director, he tirelessly promoted rubber to all planters and was instrumental in introducing a new method of tapping rubber that allowed planters to cultivate the crop on a mass scale globally. In the pamphlet, he outlined the history of rubber cultivation, best tapping practices and rubber’s economic potential in Malaya, to encourage people to take up rubber planting.

Flowers of Singapore: Special Stamp Issues 10th Tree Planting Day

Flowers of Singapore - special stamp issue national building library

Decades before eco-consciousness became a “thing”, Singapore had been commemorating Tree Planting Day. Proof: this poster publicises a commemorative stamp collection, issued to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Tree Planting Day in 1980. An annual event in Singapore today, Tree Planting Day was started in 1971 as part of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s vision for a clean and green Singapore.

Learn more about Human x Nature: Environmental Histories of Singapore here.

(Photos: National Library Board)

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