Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Raffles' Letters: Intrigues behind the Founding of Singapore. So intriguing that I would make more visits.

Thanks to the generous invitation of the National Library Board, I had the privilege to be present for the launch of the exhibition, Raffles' Letters: Intrigues behind the Founding of Singapore, on 28 Aug 2012. The Guest-of-Honour for the launch was Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

I delightedly recall being first acquainted with Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles when I was a Primary School student. I read about him in the Social Studies textbook! He is the founder of modern Singapore, I recall. I was so excited with the Social Studies textbook that before the new academic year had started, I had read the textbook practically from cover to cover.

Speech by Dr John Bastin.

The launch
At the launch, I had the pleasure to listen to Dr John Bastin sharing his insights on the exhibition and the letters that Sir Stamford Raffles had written. Dr John Bastin is the leading scholar on Raffles and his circle. He is the author of the book, The Founding of Singapore 1819. He is also the author of a number of books on the history of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The exhibition
When the exhibition was officially launched, I was impressed by the scale of the exhibition. Raffles' Letter: Intrigues behind the Founding of Singapore features 86 artefacts, including valuable maps and books from the early 19th century. This exhibition tells me way more about Raffles and the intrigues behind the founding of Singapore than all the things that I have learnt about Raffles through my history lessons up to Lower Secondary School level!

Letters penned by Sir Stamford Raffles
Twenty letters penned by Sir Stamford Raffles were displayed in public for the first time. These letters provide a glimpse of what went on in Raffles' mind when he sought to secure a port settlement for the British East India Company in the East.

I could not quite decipher the hand-writings on many of the letters that were displayed at the exhibition. Thankfully, the exhibition team has painstakingly deciphered the letters and has made the contents of the letters available in printed text. I have learnt that it helps to visit this exhibition several times to read the numerous letters that were on display. Even if visitors do not have the time to read all the letters, it is nevertheless intriguing to feel the aura of the letters that were personally penned by Raffles.

The Bute Map: The earliest landward map of Singapore
One of the exhibits that every visitors ought to see is the replica of the 1820 map of the Singapore which is on loan from the Bute Collection at Mount Stuart in Scotland. This map is believed to be the earliest landward map of Singapore town. In this map, one could see the exact location of the residence of the then local chief, Temenggong Abdul Rahman. In addition, I learnt about the location of the "Ancient Lines of Singapore" through looking at the map. Interestingly, this map also shows the location of the Singapore Stone that once stood at the mouth of the Singapore River on a place that was known as "Rocky Point". The Singapore Stone was demolished in 1843 to widen the mouth of the river.

There were many more interesting exhibits at the exhibition. It was clear that I would have to schedule to make a few more visits to this exhibition by 28 Feb 2012 so as to spend sufficient time to look at the numerous exhibits.

Interactive sections
There is an interactive section in the exhibition spaces that could allow visitors to learn more about Raffles, his letters and the founding of Singapore through interactive multimedia.

On the same level, near where the lockers are located, visitors can also have fun learning about Singapore through a few of the selected maps of Singapore. The technology of Kinetic was employed to create this interactive activity.

The teasers
For visitors who have limited time to browse this exhibition, it can be helpful to start by browsing the exhibition panels that have been put up on the ground level of the National Library Building. I have found these to be wonderful teasers to Raffles' Letters: Intrigues behind the Founding of Singapore.

Due to copyrights, photography is not allowed at this exhibition.

Nevertheless, this exhibition is likely to fascinate anyone who is interested in the history behind the founding of Singapore. Anyone who would like to learn more about Singapore's history beyond what the history textbooks could discuss will also find this exhibition to be interesting. Please make your way to the National Library soon!

In conjunction with this exhibition, curator's tours by Dr Kevin Tan and Lim Chen Sian will be organised on the following dates:
1 Sep 2012, 13 Oct 2012, 17 Nov 2012, and 27 Jan 2013. From 2 - 4 p.m. at Level 10, National Library Gallery.

Please register at http://golibrary.nlb.gov.sg/programme/Heritage.aspx

Also read:
Letters from Raffles by Huang Lijie, ST Classifieds.
See historic letters by Raffles at the library by Michael Allen, Asia One.
Raffles' Letters Exhibition: Intrigues behind the founding of Singapore by Yahoo! photo.

Raffles' Letters:
Intrigues behind the Founding of Singapore.
29 Aug 2012 - 28 Feb 2013.
10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
National Library Gallery, Level 10.
National Library Building.
100 Victoria Street, Singapore 188064.
Free Admission.

Official website: http://raffles.nl.sg
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SirStamfordRaffles


Katong Gal said...

Hi, just to say thank u for sharing. I went to the exhibition after reading this post and it was indeed a most fascinating experience. I felt so sorry for Raffles and his wife after learning that 3 of their 4 children died within six months of each other. Heartbreaking.

And all the intrigues and "office politics" that Raffles endured whilst trying to get an agreement on Singapore! An exciting and educational read.

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Katong Gal, thanks for visiting and for your kind compliments. I am glad that you have found the experience to be fascinating.

It was extremely heartbreaking to learn about the death of many of Raffles' children. Life at Bencoolen was very tough. I had read about it when I was in Primary School, and when I was older, I could better appreciate how difficult it would have been for Raffles and his wife.