Raffles Library and Museum (1942-45)



The Raffles Library and Museum was taken over by the Japanese and renamed Syonan Hakubutsu Kan during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore from 15 February 1942 to 12 September 1945.1 Vulcanologist and geologist, Professor Hidezo Tanakadate headed the institution from February 1942 to September 1942, followed by Marquis Yoshichika Tokugawa, a relative of the Japanese Emperor.2 Despite a three and a half year occupation by the Japanese, only minimal losses by the library were suffered.3 After the Japanese surrender, Lieutenant-Colonel G. Archey of the British Military Administration took over directorship of the library and museum on 6 September 1945.4

Background
The Raffles Library and Museum was converted into a Regimental Aid Station by the British and Australian armies during the Japanese invasion in February 1942.5 The library building suffered damages on its northwestern wall and rooftop during the invasion.6 Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 after a fortnight of battle and was renamed as Syonan-to, meaning “Light of the South.7


On 18 February 1942, the assistant director of gardens in the Straits Settlements, E.J.H. Corner, with support from Governor Sir Shenton Thomas, met a group of Japanese scientists and nobles with the intention of protecting the invaluable collections of the library and museum.8 He was later enlisted by Hidezo Tanakadate, a Japanese professor, to assist him in re-establishing the library and museum.9

Collections
The library collection increased to 40,000 books by March 1942.10 This was made possible due to the assistance of I. Asahi, custodian of Enemy Property and Secretary to the Municipality.11 He granted permission for abandoned books to be gathered and transferred to the library.12 Among the abandoned materials collected were records of the Eastern Bureau of the League of Nations as well as books from libraries of civil service departments, Attorney-General's offices and private collections.13

The Library suffered minimal losses during the Japanese Occupation.14 It was looted of some 500 reference books.15 This was negligible in comparison with the Penang Library, which lost half of its 30,000 volumes and the Perak Library that lost the bulk of its geological collection.16

Syonan Hakubutsu Kan
On 29 April 1942, the Raffles Library and Museum was re-opened to the public as the Syonan Hakubutsu Kan.17 The directorship of the library and museum was taken over by Professor Hidezo Tanakadate, a vulcanologist and geologist of Tohoku Imperial University in Sendai.18 In September 1942, Marquis Yoshichika Tokugawa, related by marriage to the emperor of Japan, was appointed as the president of the Syonan Hakubutsu Kan.19 He later became the director of the library and museum when Tanakadate was ordered to return to Japan on suspicion of being a pro-European supporter in June 1943.20 An exclusive library that served only the Japanese called Syonan Tosyokan, was set up at the ground floor of the annexed St. Andrew’s School in February 1943.21 It held only Japanese books and magazines. 

Library Usage
The library was patronised mainly by the Japanese and European staff from the Department of Information, which created propaganda for the Japanese invasion of India and Australia.22 More than 13,000 volumes were also circulated to civil internees at the Maxwell Road Customs House and prisoners-of-war at Changi Prison.23 Among these volumes were prayer books, hymnals, music sheets and children's books.24

Japanese Surrender
On 2 September 1945, the Japanese army surrendered to the Allied forces on board the USS Missouri.25 The Union Jack flag was raised at the museum by Chief Clerk Quan Ah Gun on 5 September 1945, marking the end of the Japanese Occupation in Singapore.26 The directorship of the library and museum was taken over by Lieutenant-Colonel G. Archey of the British Military Administration on 6 September 1945.27



Author
Heirwin Mohd Nasir




References
1. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
2. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 78‒84. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
3. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 75. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
4. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
5. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
6. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
7. Liu, G. (1999). Singapore: A pictorial history 1819‒2000. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 259. (Call no: RSING 959.57 LIU-[HIS])
8. Samuel, D. S. (1991). Singapore's heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Services, p.197. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
9. Corner, E. J. H. (1981). The Marquis: A tale of Syonan-to. Singapore: Heinemann Educational Asia, p.30. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 COR-[HIS]); Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 78. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
10. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 82. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
11. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
12. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
13. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 81‒82. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
14. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 75. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
15. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 75. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
16. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 75, 79. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
17. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
18. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 78‒80. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SE -[LIB])
19. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
20. Corner, E. J. H. (1981). The Marquis: A tale of Syonan-to. Singapore: Heinemann Educational Asia, p.100. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 COR-[HIS]); Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE -[LIB])
21. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
22. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
23. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SE -[LIB])
24. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
25. Lee, G. B. (1992). Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942–1945. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 268. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE-[HIS])
26. Corner, E. J. H. (1981). The Marquis: A tale of Syonan-to. Singapore: Heinemann Educational Asia, p.146. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 COR-[HIS]); Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
27. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SE -[LIB])



Further resources
British civic treasures in Syonan being preserved. (1942, September 10). The Syonan Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Popular lending library for public of Syonan. (1942, September 15). The Syonan Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Raffles' statue being removed to museum. (1942, September 9). The Syonan Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Statue of founder removed to museum. (1942, September 13). The Syonan Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Syonan museum is on "must see" list of every sailor. (1942, September 4). The Syonan Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 2002 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
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Public Buildings>>Libraries
Libraries--Singapore
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Libraries
Arts>>Art museums, collections and exhibitions
Law and government>>Culture and community>>Public libraries
Science and technology>>Library and information science>>Library and information services