Formation of Raffles Library and Museum (1874)



In 1874, the Singapore Library became a public library and, with the functions of the museum added to it, was renamed Raffles Library and Museum.1 The government received formal ownership of the Singapore Library collections on 1 July 1874.2 The Raffles Library and Museum was first opened to the public on 4 September 1874 and had three divisions: the reference library, lending library and reading room.3 It was originally located at the Town Hall (Victoria Memorial Hall) until its move to the site of the current National Museum of Singapore.

Early beginnings
The formation of a public library can be traced to 1873 when there was an interest to set up in London a permanent exhibition of colonial products.4 Arising from this, in a letter to the Colonial Secretary, H. L. Randell, the principal civil medical officer of the Straits Settlements, proposed the setting up of a museum for the collection of objects of natural history.5 The governor concurred and proposed the combination of a museum with a public library.


Library and museum committee
Robert Little was appointed by the governor as president of the library and museum committee to look into establishing the institution.6 Besides Little, 18 new members were also added to the committee.7 The inaugural meeting of the committee was held on 24 April 1874, and their first task was to appoint someone to be responsible for the new museum and library.8 On 8 May, James Collins was appointed economic botanist, librarian and secretary at a salary of $200 a month.9

Three subcommittees, in charge of the library, museum and garden respectively, were also formed. The library sub-committee held some 14 meetings.10 It had been known that the proprietors of the Singapore Library were willing to transfer ownership of the library to the government subject to certain provisions.11 Thus, on 13 May 1874, the committee passed a resolution that the proprietors of the Singapore Library transfer the library and the rights over it to the committee upon a settlement of $500.12 The proprietors would also have the added privilege of becoming lifetime subscribers without payment.13

The proprietors of the Singapore Library agreed to the proposal and its terms, receiving a final payment of $560.70.14 The library, together with its collection of around 3,000 books, was formally handed over to the government on 1 July 1874.15 Originally occupying the lower rooms of the Town Hall, the library was moved to three rooms on the upper floor, which were more conducive to the preservation of valuable books and to reading.16

Rules and function
The library was opened to the public on 4 September 1874 with rules drawn up and published by the committee.17 Some of the more interesting rules were as follows:

(1) The library was established by the government for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Straits Settlements, and consisted of a reference library of valuable books, a circulating or lending library and a reading room where the main newspapers, periodicals and reference and other books were read or consulted.
(2) The library opened from 10 am to 6 pm daily except on Sundays. It was closed between 1 December and 7 December annually for the "examination of the books".
(3) A subscription of $20 per annum or $5 per quarter was payable for first-class subscribers, while second-class subscribers paid $6 annually or $1.50 quarterly. First-class subscribers were entitled to the exclusive use of new books for the first three months after receipt in the library, and the loan of two complete works and one periodical. Second-class subscribers could borrow only one complete work and one periodical.
(4) For periodicals that the library subscribed to, one copy could be lent but only if a volume was complete and bound. Non-subscribers were allowed into the reading room upon the introduction of a member of the committee. However, they were not allowed to borrow publications.
(5) The loan period of each book was fixed by the librarian.
(6) The fine for overdue books was five cents per day, increasing to 10 cents after notice had been given by the librarian.
(7) All users of the library had to write their names in a book kept in the library.

The library comprised three divisions: the reference library, lending library and reading room.18 Books in the reference library were few. During its expansion programme, the areas of focus were: East Asia, Malay manuscripts, art, science and literature.19 There were 670 visitors to the reading room by the end of 1874.20 The lending library had nine life members, 31 first-class subscribers and 62 second-class subscribers.21 It also added 200 books to its collection.22

The library subscribed to some 47 periodicals, with multiple copies of up to three copies each for some of the titles.23 Some of the titles from the time of the Raffles Library and Museum that the National Library Board still subscribes to today include The Straits Times, London Times, Nature and Spectator.

Timeline
28 Mar 1874: Resolution of the Legislative Council to establish a library and museum in Singapore.24
24 Apr 1874: Library and museum committee's first meeting at Raffles Institution.
8 May 1874: James Collins appointed economic botanist, librarian and secretary.25
13 May 1874: The committee passes a resolution to acquire rights to the Singapore Library.26
1 Jul 1874: Formal possession of the library. Library moves to upper rooms of the Town Hall.27
16 Jul 1874: The committee agrees upon the name “Raffles Library and Museum”.28
4 Sep 1874: The Raffles Library and Museum was opened to the public.29
26 Dec 1876–22 Jan 1877: The library closes temporarily as it relocates to new premises on the first and second floors of the new wing of the Raffles Institution.30
1878: Ordinance (VII of 1878) places the library more directly under government control with the five-member committee appointed directly by the governor.31 Previously, the governor approved a committee of 20 to 24 members, with vacancies filled according to the discretion of committee members.32
16 Dec 1887: Davison takes on the post of permanent librarian, curator and secretary after several changes in this post.33



Author

Chan Fook Weng



References
1. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 546–549. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
2. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 545. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
3. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 121.
4. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 119; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 542. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
5. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 120; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 542. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)
6. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 543. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
7. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 544. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
8. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 544. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
9. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 544. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Raffles Library and Museum. (1876). Report on the Raffles Library and Museum for 1875 [Microfilm no.: NL 3874]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 4.
10. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
11. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 121.
12. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 121; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 545. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
13. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 545. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
14. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
15. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
16. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
17. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874  [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 121; Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
18. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 121; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 546. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
19. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 122.
20. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 122.
21. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 122.
22. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 122.
23. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 122.
24. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 546. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Raffles Institution meeting. (1874, March 28). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
26. Raffles Library and Museum. (1875). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum, for the year ending December 31st 1874. In Straits Settlements, Annual reports for the year 1874 [Microfilm no.: NL 383]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 121; Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
27. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 545. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
28. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 23. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
29. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 546. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
30. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
31. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
32. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
33. Raffles Library and Museum. (1888). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum for 1887 [Microfilm no.: NL 3874]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 1.



Further resources
Liu, G. (1987). One hundred years of the National Museum: Singapore 1887–1987. Singapore: National Museum.

(Call no.: RSING 708.95957 LIU)

Raffles Library and Museum. (1879). Report of the Committee of the Raffles Library and Museum for 1879 [Microfilm no.: NL 3874]. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 1.



The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Museums--Singapore
Science and technology>>Library and information science>>Library and information services
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Public Buildings>>Libraries
Libraries--Singapore
Libraries
Law and government>>Culture and community>>Public libraries
Singapore--History--1867-1942