Digital Gems is a gateway to rare, historical, and primary source materials from NUS Libraries Special Collection in digital format. This virtual library provides access to a selection of rare books, manuscripts, private collections, journals, newspapers, drawings, pamphlets, photographs, maps, and audio-visual materials of cultural and historical value. Digital content in the NUS Libraries Digital Gems comes from the following collections in the NUS Libraries:

NUS Libraries is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes only.




SG: A Sense of History

A Sense of History was first published as a printed bibliography to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1819. Through the years, it has remained a popular resource for students and researchers on the history of Singapore.

We are pleased to be able to relaunch the bibliography as a database in the Digital Gems portal of the NUS Libraries. The database lists bibliographical records of books, theses, book chapters, and journal articles. Where available links to the full-text subscribed by the NUS Libraries have also been provided.

The focus is on the history of Singapore, from its earliest times through the period of British rule interrupted briefly by the Japanese occupation, to independence and thereafter.




SG: A Sense of History (Chinese & Japanese)

SG: A Sense of History (Chinese & Japanese) was first published together with the English edition in 1999 to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. While the bibliographic entries in the Chinese & Japanese edition are different from that of their English counterpart, the format is identical.

The focus is on the history of Singapore, from its earliest times through the period of British rule interrupted briefly by the Japanese occupation, to independence and thereafter. It has been a popular resource for students and researchers looking for Chinese and Japanese sources on the history of Singapore.

Now SG: A Sense of History (Chinese & Japanese) is separately relaunched as a database in the Digital Gems portal of the NUS Libraries. The database lists bibliographical records of Chinese and Japanese books, theses, book chapters, journal articles, and journals.




Biodiversity Library of Southeast Asia

The Biodiversity Library of Southeast Asia (BLSEA) is a digital library of biodiversity literature on Southeast Asia which aims to make the literature available to a global audience through open access principles. BLSEA comprises of biodiversity materials from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) and the NUS Libraries. We welcome opportunities to collaborate with any interested institutions to enrich the collection in BLSEA.




Chinese in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia (known to the Chinese as Nanyang – the South Seas) is the region of Chinese emigration with the longest diasporic history and the largest diaspora population.

During the Song Dynasty (AD 960 – 1279), China’s commerce started to enter foreign lands through artisans (including miners and technicians), bringing the practice of China’s domestic commerce, handicrafts and mining to places such as the Philippines, Java and West Borneo, among others. This was the first wave of Chinese emigration to Southeast Asia. Thereafter, Chinese emigration to Southeast Asia included businessmen, labourers, the descendants of earlier emigrants, and re-emigrants. Originally composed largely of short-term fortune-seekers, the Southeast Asian Chinese diaspora gradually came to call Southeast Asia home, forming the largest group of native Chinese overseas.

For centuries, Chinese emigrants to Southeast Asia have founded various clan organisations, schools, newspapers and journals, leaving thousands of documents of historical interest. These valuable documents are primary sources for research on the economic and social history of these immigrants, their political activities, and the transmission of their religious beliefs.

They comprise collections of important documents such as weekly magazines, internal newsletters of schools and social organisations, history books, familial genealogies and pictures. 




Chinese Newspapers

NUS Libraries has a comprehensive collection of more than 150 Chinese newspapers published in Southeast Asia in print and microform. There are a total of 96 titles from Singapore, 34 from Malaysia, 7 from Vietnam, 5 from Thailand, 4 from Indonesia, 3 from the Philippines, 2 from Brunei and 1 from Cambodia. Some notable titles are Lat Pau (1887-1932), the earliest Chinese newspaper in Singapore; Penang Sin Poe (1895-1941), the first Chinese newspaper in Penang; and Sin Sian Jih Pao (1959- ), Thailand’s longest running Chinese newspaper.




English Newspapers

This collection of historical newspapers in English published in various countries of Southeast Asia provides a wide coverage of news on business, economic, politics and social affairs domestically and from around from world. In addition to the article content, the full-image newspapers offer searchable access to editorials, advertisements, and even cartoons.




Malay Newspapers

This collection contains Malay newspapers published in Jawi (a Malay script derived from Arabic) & Rumi (Romanised Malay). The newspapers published mostly local news, highlighted issues regarding the development of the Malay community in Malaya and Singapore and championed Malay rights.




History, Culture & Heritage

This collection comprises mostly published books and periodicals, but also includes materials in other formats such as manuscripts, photographs and maps relating to the history, heritage and cultures of people in Southeast Asia. It holds fascinating and important items and invites researchers and scholars to mine them to create fresh connections between the present and the past.




Medicine and Health

The Medical and Health Collection contains historical medical information for researchers, students, faculty, and healthcare professionals




Edwin Thumboo Private Papers

Edwin Thumboo is a poet and academic who is regarded as one of the pioneers of English literature in Singapore. He has donated a collection of his private papers to the National University of Singapore Libraries. The Edwin Thumboo Private Papers collection consists of manuscripts of poems, book chapters, journal articles, works of literary criticism and personal correspondences.




Wang Zengshan Private Papers

Haji Jelaluddin Wang Zengshan (1903-1961) was an important Chinese Muslim leader in modern China during the 1930s-1950s.

Prof Wang Zengshan was born in 1903 into a Hui family in Linqing, Shandong province in China. When he was a young boy, his father brought him to Beijing for his education. He graduated from Yenching University in 1925. Three year later, Wang left to pursue his graduate studies in history at Istanbul University in Turkey which he completed in 1930. Upon his return to China in 1931, Wang pursued a political career and became a member of the Guomindang's Legislative Council. He remained committed to promoting ties between China and the Islamic world, and frequently published articles about the Islamic world and promoted opportunities for Muslims in China to study abroad in Turkey. Wang was very active in the Chinese Muslim Youth Association and edited the association newsletter for a period of time.

In July 1937, the Sino-Japanese conflict erupted into a full-scale war. Not receiving much help from other countries in the struggle against Japan, the Nationalist government called upon ordinary citizens to engage in "citizen diplomacy” in support of the Chinese cause. In response, Ma Tianying proposed to the Nationalist authorities the idea of sending a delegation to the Middle East. A delegation of five young Muslim activists was assembled by the Chinese Muslim Progressive Association. The Chinese Muslim Delegation to the Near East, headed by Wang Zengshan, visited 13 Muslim countries between December 1937 and February 1939. The delegation met with kings and prime ministers, visited mosques, spoke at prayer meetings, and participated in the meetings of various Islamic organizations. Besides Wang, the other members of the delegation were Ibrahim Ma Tianying, Yusuf Zhang Zhaoli, Dawood Xue Wenbo and Wang Shiming.

During the Japanese war years from 1937-1945, Wang lived in Nanjing and Chongqing, and was Guomindang Commissioner of Civil Affairs in the Xinjiang Coalition Government from 1946 to 1947. He left Dihua (now Urumqi) in September 1949 just before the founding of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949. With his large family, Wang made his way across the mountains to reach Kashmir before making his way to Lahore where he obtained a position with the Pakistan government.

In 1955, Wang migrated to Turkey with his wife and eight children. At the invitation of Istanbul University, he set up the first department of Chinese Studies in Turkey where he also taught as a professor for several years. At the same time he did translation work and acted as honorary representative of the Republic of China in Istanbul. Wang passed away in 1961.

The Wang Zengshan Private Papers (WZSPP) Collection consist of correspondence, diaries, speeches, telegrams, photographs and reports which covered most of his working and personal life during the 1940s and 1950s in his various capacities and vocations, and some of his works on Muslim philosophy, culture and history in Chinese, English, Turkish and other languages. The Collection was deposited by Dr Rosey Wang Ma, a daughter of Prof Wang Zengshan.

For researchers who are interested in Wang Zengshan, these documents are invaluable; for those who are interested in Chinese Muslims and Chinese Muslim history, they are of the upmost import.




Koh Kim Yam Private Papers

Koh Kim Yam was born in Muar, Johor, in 24 Jan 1915, fourth son of the merchant, Koh Peng Chiang (who had property holdings in Singapore and Johor).

He was grew up on Balmoral Road and was schooled at St Joseph's Institution, where he obtained his Senior Cambridge (equivalent to GCE O-levels) at the age of 15. and obtained his Licenciate in Medicine from King Edward VII College just before the outbreak of war. While still a medical student, he met his future wife, Miss Choo Ngai Mun, a midwifery student from Kuala Lumpur. He was in Singapore during the Japanese invasion, but refused to serve under the Japanese in Singapore. Dr Koh was therefore posted to the psychiatric hospital in Tanjong Rambutan, Perak, taking Miss Choo with him. They married in 1942 in Kuala Lumpur. His first two sons, Richard and Patrick were born in 1943 and 1944 respectively in Tanjong Rambutan. In December 1944 he was take by the Japanese to care for Malayan coolies working on the Siam-Burmese railroad, where he remained until the Japanese surrender. Not knowing whether her husband was dead or alive, Mdm Choo returned with her two small children to her family in Kuala Lumpur. 

Dr Koh continued to work in Siam under the Royal Army Medical Corps for some months after the Japanese surrender, but returned to Singapore in 1946, when he was appointed to run the re-opened Tanjong Pagar Clinic on Nelson Road, Tanjong Pagar, where his third son, Francis was born. The Nelson Road clinic cared primarily for port workers and sailors, and "social health" (a euphemism for sexually transmitted diseases) was therefore a large part of his practice there. The environment was very sooty because of smoke from the nearby port, and so in 1954, Dr Koh purchased a house in the newly build Sennett Estate, at 21 Butterfly Avenue for $46,000, which remained the family home the rest of his life.

In 1960, Dr Koh was appointed medical officer-in-charge of the Middle Road Hospital, in which post he remained until his retirement in 1970. After retirement, he continued to work as a temporary medical officer at Middle Road Hospital. We was an active golfing member of Island Country Club. He died in his sleep in April 1976.




Pre-War Japanese Publications on Southeast Asia

NUS Libraries possess a valuable collection of pre-war Japanese publications on Southeast Asia written by Japanese authors. These publications on Nanyang (Southeast Asia) cover the territories of British Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines and Vietnam.

There are a wide range of subjects in this collection, including books in sociology, economics, zoology, agriculture, commerce, tourism, history, culture and ethnology. Some books focus on a particular country or colony, while others cover Southeast Asia in general. There are some books which specially introduces and discusses the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, such as Nanyō kakyō to sono jitsuseiryoku (Actual power of Southeast Asian Chinese) which was published in 1941. It discusses the meaning of “kakyō” (overseas Chinese) and reviews the social conditions and actual influence of the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia.  

This collection reflects the studies done on Southeast Asia by Japanese scholars and, to some extent, the knowledge of the Japanese on Southeast Asia in the pre-war period, and therefore is a valuable resource for interested researchers.




Singapore Pioneer Architects

The UK Colonial Service formally established the Singapore Polytechnic in 1960 to provide technical education to the local population. The first campus was located on Prince Edwards Road, then at the south‐west foreshore of Tanjong Pagar, prior to the building of the Tanjong Pagar wharves.

The first batch of architecture students gained admission in 1960, and the programme strived to equip young Malayans with the technical and scientific knowledge and skills to enter professions such as architecture and engineering, including the then allied disciplines of Town Planning. The basic design syllabus included mechanical drawing, model‐making, mathematical calculations for structures and project costing. Practical skills such as bricklaying, plumbing, soil and site survey, and woodworking were also part of the curricula. Graduates from the architecture & town planning programmes at the Singapore Polytechnic (1963‐1969) submitted their research and design work as the 'Final Year Design Project' (FDP).

From the 1970s, selected professional courses such as architecture were brought to the University of Singapore so that graduates were conferred a degree.




Historical Maps of Singapore

This website provides viewing of 31 sets of maps scanned and georeferenced by Department of Geography, with publication years ranging from 1846 to 2010.




China Meteorological Publications 1872 - 1951

A digital collection of daily China weather records spanning 1872-1951 presented in the form of a listing and geovisualisation.




Everyday Life in Singapore

A collection of sketches of common spaces in Singapore between 2014 and 2017 by Dr Ho Chee Lick, a lecturer and a self-taught artist.




Singapore Places of Worship

A collection of mixed media artwork of places of worship by a local artist, Dr Ho Chee Lick.

381 drawings of predominantly Chinese shrines of Buddhism, Taoism, popular religion and sectarian religions from antiquity to contemporary times, churches, Hindu temples, Islamic mosques, Sikh temples, and others.




Language and Literature

The Language and Literature Collection contains resources on language and literature from the Special Collections in the NUS Libraries.




Earl of Cranbrook Private Papers

The fifth Earl of Cranbrook is a specialist in swiftlet studies. Certain species of swiftlets build edible nests. The Earl worked in Malaya as well as spent time in countries like Indonesia that have swiftlets, especially the species that produce edible nests. The Collection consists of manuscripts, fieldnotes, photos, correspondence, description of swiftlet-related artefacts in various museums, published documents (journal articles, book chapters, books and dissertations, newspapers articles) some of which are authored or co-authored by the Earl.




Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi Collection

This collection of primary source materials contains 7 series of Al-Imam (1907 – 1908), the first Malay Islamic reformist periodical published in Singapore, Malaya and Malay Archipelago; 18 series of Al-Ikhwan (1927 – 1930); two monographs on religious reformation and education, and 10 novels by Syed Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hadi, a prolific journalist and writer.