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Update from the Changi Digitisation Project, Cambridge

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The Changi project team at Cambridge University Library have recently finished a major conservation challenge, the archives of John Weekley. In a new blog post John Cardwell, Project Archivist, and Emma Nichols, Project Conservator, discuss the content and challenges presented by this important part of the Changi Archive.

John Weekley served as an area commandant in the Changi and Sime Road men’s civilian internment camps for almost the entire three and a half year period of their existence. As a senior member of the camps’ administration, his papers are an invaluable source for understanding their day to day management. Many are notices disseminating information to internees, and those relating to diet, health and hygiene shed significant light upon the medical history of the camps. They record the organisation of medical services through the foundation of a hospital and the appointment of a Chief Medical Officer, a Chief Health Officer, a Medical Reference Committee, and a Fatigues Medical Board responsible for the health and safety the camps’ many workers.

The John Weekley Archive forms one of the ten conservation work packages in the Changi Archive and is by far the largest; consisting of over a thousand leaves of paper, adhered by their left hand edge into several thicker paper folded covers. The papers are all of differing sizes – from A4 to 1 cm strips; weights – from thick paper to very thin transparent paper known as onion skin; and colours – classic white and cream to violent shades of pink, yellow and blue. Though each folder had originally been one solid block of papers, over time, probably through a combination of intent and accident, the leaves had been separated into sections of varying number, adhered together but no longer to the cover. All of the leaves had sustained some kind of damage ranging from tears, losses and skinning, to staining from the adhesive.

To find out more details about the John Weekley Archive and how conservation work was carried out, including photographs documenting the conservation process, please visit John Cardwell’s and Emma Nichols’ article on “The History and Conservation of the John Weekley Changi Archives”.

Changi digitisation project at Cambridge University Library

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Cambridge University Library has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Award to conserve, digitise and make freely available online the archives of two WWII civilian internment camps on Singapore – Changi and Sime Road. These form part of the Royal Commonwealth Society’s British Association of Malaysia and Singapore archives. The two-year grant commences in September 2015 and it is planned to launch the records in Cambridge Digital Library in August 2017.

The archives will be of immense interest to the families of internees, academic researchers, students and the general public, since few survivors ever spoke of their traumatic ordeal. The first stage of the project involves the meticulous conservation of the archives.

The archives contain invaluable primary sources for the reconstruction of the lives of Singapore’s civilian internees. They include official records compiled by the camps’ internal administration, which document personal data like an internee’s name, date entered camp, marital status, occupation, age, nationality, and camp address. Other sources shed light upon accommodation, camp discipline, relations with the Japanese authorities, work parties, diet, health and hygiene, recreation and leisure, the delivery of mail, and the repatriation of internees at the end of the war. Newspapers circulated within the male camp, such as the ‘Changi Guardian’, reported upon events, disseminated news of sporting, musical and theatrical societies, and published fiction, poetry and humour. These official records are complemented by the correspondence, diaries and memoirs of individual internees.

More information on the historical background and provenance of the archives can be found on the Cambridge University Library Special Collections webpage.

An article by Peng Han Lim on “Identifying and collecting primary sources of information to reconstruct the daily lives of the civilian internees at Changi Prison and Sime Road Camp 1942-45” is included in the SEALG Newsletter 2013.

National Archives of Singapore online

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The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) is the official custodian of Singapore’s collective memory. Ranging from government files, private memoirs, speeches and press releases, historical maps and photographs to oral history interviews and audio-visual materials, the NAS is responsible for the collection, preservation and management of Singapore’s public and private archival records.

To allow users easy access to the archival holdings, Archives Online is designed to allow users to seamlessly search information across NAS’ various independent databases and view selected photographs, maps and plans, listen to oral history interview samplers and watch snippets of audio-visual recordings, round the clock.

Archives Online provides the following information and services:

  • Inventory listings of all media records
  • Administrative history and brief description of government agencies’ function
    (This helps researchers identify relevant records by understanding the way records are created, such as the agency’s mandate and functions.)
  • Viewing of selected digitised records, such as photographs, posters, speeches and cartographic records
  • Listening to snippets of audio-visual recordings
  • Information on some of the exhibitions by NAS

Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship at National Library of Singapore

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The National Library of Singapore is inviting applicants for the 2014 Lee Kong Chian Research Fellow program. The program started in 2005 and is into its 9th year. The Fellowship aims to facilitate new research and publishing about Singapore and Southeast Asian culture, economy and heritage. This will enrich the Asia-centric collections and resources of the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library at the National Library of Singapore. Talented scholars and researchers are encourage to use the Library’s resources and services, and to collaborate with them on joint research projects to create new knowledge. The LKC Research Fellowship will be offered to individuals interested in suggested fields of research identified by the Library.

Who Can Apply?
The LKC Research Fellowship is open to both local and foreign applicants who are able to undertake prescribed research topics that raise awareness of our collections. Successful applicants should have scholarly and research credentials or its equivalent. Applicants could be curators, historians, academics or independent researchers who should preferably have an established record of achievement in their chosen field of research and the potential to excel further.

Research Area
Preference is given to research in the following areas, for 2014:

• Early Printing & Publishing: Singapore’s role in early printing – Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English publications including works of Mission Press, private publishers, government printing offices, etc. / Works before 1950s
• Early Printing & Publishing: Malay manuscripts and early printed books – Early works on Malay literature
• Early maps: Study of early maps and navigational charts on early Singapore and the region – Notable collection of Parry Maps acquired by the library in 2012 / Early Singapore and regional maps
• National Literature / Literary Arts: Voices of Singapore Literary Arts writers (or any art genres) post 1965  – Literature /  literary works on Singapore writers

Terms of the Award
The award of the Fellowship is for a period of six months and is subject to renewal if necessary. Fellows may not hold a concurrent fellowship or propose a research area which he has already completed his research for a masters or a doctoral thesis. The research fellow should not hold a concurrent employment or other fellowships simultaneously with the Lee Kong Chian Fellowship.

A stipend of up to a maximum of S$2,000 per month will be provided to help LKC Research Fellows meet living expenses, local transportation and photocopying expenses. In addition to the stipend, overseas Fellows will be provided with the following on a case-by-case basis:
a. One-time relocation package for Research Fellows to Singapore of up to a maximum of S$1,500. Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis if the lowest prevailing market rates for airfares still exceed the above capped amounts at time of purchase
b. Monthly accommodation allowance of up to a maximum of S$2,500 subject to market rates and approval from the Selection Committee

Application closes on 25 Jul 2014. Instructions on how to apply and other details about the Fellowship can be found on the homepage of the National Library Board Singapore.