Karl Richard Hanitsch



Karl Richard Hanitsch (Dr) (b. 22 December 1860, Grossenstien, Sachsen-Altenburg, Germany–d. 11 August 1940, London, England) served as director of the Raffles Library and Museum for 24 years, from 1895 to 1919.He became the first director of the Raffles Museum and Library when the title of Curator and Librarian was changed to Director in September 1908.2 Hanitsch’s long tenure saw the Raffles Library and Museum increase significantly in its collections, patronage and building size despite the meagre annual government grant.3 He also held the positions of honorary treasurer of the Straits Branch, Royal Asiatic Society,4 and editor and secretary of the Journal of the Asiatic Society.5

Hanitsch was a recognised authority in the area of entomology, particularly cockroaches.6 In recognition of his contribution to science, Hanitsch was awarded an honorary MA by Oxford University in 1935 – a rare honour considering that he was not a graduate of the university.7

Personal background and career
The son of Victor Hanitsch, a schoolmaster,8 Hanitsch earned his doctorate from the University of Jena, Germany where he studied from 1881 to 1885.9 He left Germany for Britain in 1886, and taught in a number of English schools before being appointed Demonstrator of Zoology at University College, Liverpool from 1887 to 1895. Hanitsch married Ethel Vernon in 1892, and had two sons and three daughters.10

Contributions to the Raffles Library and Museum
As curator and librarian of the Raffles Library and Museum, Hanitsch was tasked with the administration of both.11 In addition, he had to work with limited funds and constraints of space.12 Hanitsch also had the challenging task of retaining talented staff leaving for better prospects elsewhere. Despite all these hurdles, he made immense progress and improvements to the Raffles Library and Museum. His hard work and efforts were finally recognised, and he received increased grants from the government. New wings were also added to the original Raffles Library and Museum building to relieve the institution of its space crunch.13

Contributions to the library
During his term as director, Hanitsch grew both the Raffles library collection and the number of subscribers. By 1907, the library collection’s size had grown to 30,000 and there were about 320 subscribers.14 This was in comparison to a collection size of only 10, 721 in 1894, and 220 subscribers in 1895. The year before he retired, the library saw a record number of 555 subscribers, a testament to its growing popularity.15


Hanitsch had had the foresight to pressure the government to reserve a strip of land measuring 35, 860 sq ft between Bishop House (situated behind the former British Council Hall which was demolished to build the National Library building at 91 Stamford Road) and the Raffles Library and Museum for future developments.16

Hanitsch managed to acquire the following priceless collections for the library, some of which are still part of the collection at National Library:
- Reinhold Rost Collection: Books relating to Malaya was purchased at the cost of  $2,000. Hanitsch published the catalogue for the Rost Collection in 1897.
- Singapore Local Laws and Institutions, 1823: A pamphlet that contains proclamations and regulations signed by Stamford Raffles in 1823.
- Map of Singapore from a survey done by G. D. Coleman in 1836.
- An oil painting by Major General Philip Bedingfield donated by Frank Swettenham.
- Original charters granted to the Colony by George III and William IV.17

Hanitsch also notably made significant changes to the library’s classification structure. Dissatisfied with the existing system, Hanitsch took action to introduce a new system that facilitated the publication of a number of valuable catalogues. They included:
- Catalogue I – printed in 1886 and containing all books received in the Raffles Library from inception till 1886.
- Catalogue II – containing all additions from 1886 to1895 and the annual supplements from 1896.
- Two subsidiary catalogues from the Logan and Rost collections.18
- A 636-page complete catalogue for the entire Library up to 1900.19
- A catalogue covering 1900–1910 incorporating a short classified index of all works of fiction by title and author.20

Contributions to the museum
As the museum was without a permanent curator for 18 months prior to his appointment, Hanitsch prioritised the overhauling, cleaning and arranging of the large collection of stored zoological specimens of the Museum, laying them out scientifically. He also invested in new display cases with proper glass and brass fittings to keep the dust out and exhibits safe, and developed a regime to keep the museum up-to-date, aesthetically pleasing and scientifically significant to visitors.21


Hanitsch also produced various publications including a guidebook on the exhibits at the Raffles Museum. His Guide to the Zoological Collections of the Raffles Museum, the first comprehensive and illustrated publication to be published in 1908, proved a popular souvenir for Japanese tourists.22 Hanitsch also contributed the article "Fifty-three species of Blattidae" (a species of cockroach) in 1928 for the inaugural issue of the Bulletin of the Raffles Museum.23

During his tenure, Hanitsch undertook various measures to improve and expand the library’s zoological and ethnological collections. He organised expeditions to the nearby islands and within Singapore to increase the zoological collections. His first expedition was in 1895 to Pulau Brani and Pulau Blakang Mati (present-day Sentosa). Expeditions to Bukit Timah were also organised to capture spiders and reptiles. Hanitsch maintained good relationships with many of the museums in the region as well as those in India and London. This allowed him to trade or purchase surplus specimens from other museums. One such exchange was the acquirement of 51 species of birds from the Selangor Museum.24

Hanitsch's major contribution before he retired was starting the Singapore History collection – an idea sparked by the centennial celebration of the founding of Singapore.25 He suggested forming a collection of portraits of distinguished residents, plans and pictures and other subjects of historical interest of past and present Singapore.26 Contributions were received from companies like Donaldson and Burkinshaw, Guthrie and Co., Drew and Napier, United Engineers, Record Room of the Colonial Office, and also from private citizens like Lim Boon Keng.27

Hanitsch retired on 7 July 1919 and was succeeded by Major J. C. Moulton, former Curator of the Sarawak Museum.28 During his retirement, he continued his research, spending a few hours every morning at the Department of Entomology, Oxford University up till his death on 11 August 1940. In 1978, Christmas Island issued a four-stamp series featuring “Famous Visitors”. The 50-cent stamp, which was the highest denomination, commemorates Hanitsch who visited the island for five weeks from September to October 1904.29

Selected publications by Hanitsch
Hanitsch, R. (1900). An expedition to Mount Kina Balu, British North Borneo [Microfilm no.: NL 1571]. Singapore: Straits Branch, Royal Asiatic Society.


Raffles Museum (Singapore). (1908). Guide to the zoological collections of the Raffles Museum, Singapore. Singapore: Straits Times Press. Retrieved from BookSG website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/printheritage/detail/d056ddf9-9a39-4cbc-b43c-45378d70438a.aspx



Author

Sitragandi Arunasalam



References
1. Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 55, 68–69. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN); Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 47, 62. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB])
2. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 59. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE-[LIB]; Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN); Entomology expert dies. (1940, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Liu, G. (1987). One hundred years of the National Museum Singapore 1887–1987. Singapore: The Museum, pp. 28–30. (Call no.: RSING 708.95957 LIU); Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 62. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN)
4. Dorset, J. W. (Ed.). (1918). Who's who in Malaya 1918 [Microfilm no.: NL 5829]. Singapore: Methodist Pub House, p. 57.
5. Mainly about Malayans. (1940, August 18). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Entomology expert dies. (1940, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 69. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN)
8. Mainly about Malayans. (1940, August 18). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Mainly about Malayans. (1940, August 18). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dorset, J. W. (Ed.). (1918). Who's who in Malaya 1918 [Microfilm no.: NL 5829]. Singapore: Methodist Pub House, p. 57.
10. Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 54–55. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN); Dorset, J. W. (Ed.). (1918). Who's who in Malaya 1918 [Microfilm no.: NL 5829]. Singapore: Methodist Pub House, p. 57.
11. Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN)
12. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE); Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 58. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN); Liu, G. (1987). One hundred years of the National Museum Singapore 1887–1987. Singapore: The Museum, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 708.95957 LIU)
13. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 55, 61. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE)
14. Wright, A. & Cartwright, H. A. (Eds.). (1989). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: Its history people commerce industries and resource. Singapore: G. Brash, p. 242. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 TWE)
15. Raffles Museum and Library. (1876–1955). Annual report 1894 [Microfilm nos.: NL 3874, NL 25786]. Singapore: The Museum, p. 2.
16. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 59. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE); Doggett, M. (1985). Characters of light. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 58. (Call no.: RSING 722 4095957 DOG)
17. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 48, 52, 61. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE)
18. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 50. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE)
19. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE); Wright, A. & Cartwright, H. A. (Eds.). (1989). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: Its history people commerce industries and resource. Singapore: G. Brash, p. 242. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 TWE)
20. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 57. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE)
21. Tan, K. Y. L. (2015) Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 55, 57. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN)
22. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 60. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE); Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 60. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN)
23. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE)
24. Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 55, 56. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN)
25. Liu, G. (1987). One hundred years of the National Museum Singapore 1887–1987. Singapore: The Museum, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 708.95957 LIU)
26. Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 67–68. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN)
27. Liu, G. (1987). One hundred years of the National Museum Singapore 1887–1987. Singapore: The Museum, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 708.95957 LIU)
28. Seet, K. K. (1983). A place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 62. (Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SEE)
29. Tan, K. Y. L. (2015). Of whales and dinosaurs: The story of Singapore's natural history museum. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 69. (Call no.: RSING 508.0745957 TAN)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Natural history museum directors--Singapore--Biography
Science and technology>>Library and information science>>Library and information services
Hanitsch, Karl Richard, 1860-1940
Library directors--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Art museums, collections and exhibitions
Pioneers
Personalities>>Biographies>>Pioneers
Singapore--History--1867-1942