Monday, 22 August 2016

NLB Exhibition: From the Stacks

I've been wanting to go to the From the Stacks exhibition, and I finally managed to make it! At first, I was quite scared that it would be like the Shakespeare one (small and not very good), but it was FANTASTIC. I really do love it.


From the Stacks has (according to the NLB description):

"Documents, publications and photographs from Singapore’s early days reveal fascinating insights into our history and culture. For instance, an 1819 document on the establishment of Malay College reveals how Raffles envisioned Singapore not just as a commercial hub but also as a centre for learning, culture and the arts.

Early literary works, religious tracts and dictionaries point to a thriving publishing industry in Singapore with printing presses run by English missionaries, Chinese literati and Muslim publishers. Cross-cultural exchanges, which have always been an element of Singapore society, gave rise to the first ‘fusion’ recipes in early cookbooks such as The Mem’s Own Cookery Book, published in 1929. As Singapore came into its own, discussions and debates about the Singapore identity are reflected in early 20th century magazines and 1950s poetry.

Discover early Singapore from a fresh perspective through over 100 highlights from the National Library’s collection of rare publications, manuscripts, documents, maps, photographs and more."
The exhibition has quite a few topics, like natural history, World War II, first publications in Singapore, etc. It's actually quite a big exhibition, my cousin and I spent about 2 hours there.

So without further ado, snippets of the exhibition:


This is a picture of one of the first few publications in Singapore - The Sermon on the Mount in three languages (if I remember correctly). Mission work led to the first few publications ever, though it was not always judiciously given out - one exhibit talks about how someone wrote in to complain that the missionaries were giving out tracts to illiterate coolies, who in turn used the pages to wrap fruits!

Quite interactive too - the following photo was a flipcard that contained excerpts from some sort of dictionary/guide thing.


And the sign pointed out that the entry on opium made it sound harmless, basically to justify the British opium trade. It's a good reminder that what makes it in (or out) a textbook can show a certain worldview.

There were quite a few multi-media exhibits too!! You could 'like' the pictures in this one:


I really liked the exhibition of learning Malay, which was quite heavily featured in the advertisements:



The picture shows examples from old Malay dictionaries, with the pronunciation written in Chinese dialect! I thought it was fascinating, as was the interactive exhibit (well, move the panels about) that show how the meaning of certain Malay words have changed over time. Like how Peranakan used to just mean 'womb', but now also includes Peranakan people.



Found this too! The whole thing was written in three languages! It looks like I can borrow it too, but I suppose they're using it for the exhibition, so it's not a good idea to take it out :p



There had some lovely take-home stuff too. Apart from these pictures (which I didn't take cause they were too big), there was also a decent guide of the exhibition, recipe books, and an area where you could try library stamps on 'library cards'!

And these are the things that I brought back:



This is the war section. Fascinating, though we could hear the audio from the nursery rhymes section so that was a bit weird.



This is apparently gold ink on silk, written for the prince (I think Prince Albert?) in both Chinese and English.



And the nursery rhyme sections! They had these giant 'books' (way taller than me), and you could 'flip' the pages. My cousin and I just stood there and listened to all three rhymes in English and Malay. The rhymes are Baa Baa Black Sheep, Jack and Jill and Sing a Song of Sixpence

Like I said at the start, this exhibition is really fantastic! If you have the time, you should definitely go. Plus it's free, so even if it turns out that I talked it up a bit too much (but I don't think I did), you won't have lost anything but some time.

So yeah, definitely go see this if you can. Central Library, Level 10. The exhibition will run until 25 September, 2016.

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