The National Archives of Singapore unveils revamped building: enhanced to improve public access to historical materials on Singapore's story

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Senior AV Preservation Officer Shanker Thangavellu elaborates  on the challenges of cleaning vinyls and shellacs to visitors. Images courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.

On 7 April 2019, the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) held a re-opening ceremony after 18 months of renovation. Mr S. Iswaran, the Minister for the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), spoke about the importance of the National Archives as “a treasure trove of our history and heritage that enliven the present and secure our future by informing our identity as a nation”. The reopening was a key event in the year-long celebrations of the NAS’ 50th anniversary.

Built in 1956, the current NAS building was formerly the Anglo-Chinese Primary School from 1956 to 1992. The Art Deco building was gazetted with conservation status in 2005 under the Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB), and the NAS moved into the present premises in 1997. During the revamp in 2017, a time capsule was discovered and its contents dated from 13 August 1956 when the building was first built. The capsule and its contents were showcased to guests at the reopening reception, and they included past and present school staff of the Anglo-Chinese Primary School. Guests were also provided a guided tour of the revamped building and its facilities.
The Archives Reading Room (ARR), where researchers and members of the public may access archival records, has expanded its opening hours! Members of the public can visit and consult the resources beyond manned service hours, and there are now rooms available for group viewing of materials as well. There is now also a new e-request system for the convenience of anyone interested in viewing or procuring archival materials.

The Oldham Theatre has expanded from a 44-seat to a 132-seat theatre offering a cinematic experience. The Asian Film Archive (AFA) is a key partner which provides a programme of screenings every week, and the audience can enjoy films from Singapore and the region. There are also 3 cosy recording studios where oral history interviews can be conducted by both the oral history specialists and volunteers.

The Archives Conservation Lab (ACL) has had its space reorganised; tiles and lighting changed; and upgrades installed including an emergency eyewash and shower, new workbenches, hooded humidification chamber, mounted microscopes, and an expanded photo-documentation area. However, “old is gold,” and the conservators have retained functioning equipment such as the anoxic chamber, leaf-casting machine, and hydraulic press as well.

Ong Fang Zheng
National Archives of Singapore

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