The collection comprises deposits of papers from prominent individuals. These private papers provide unique perspectives on the historical, literary, social, political and natural history of Southeast Asia.
Born in 1933, the current and fifth Earl of Cranbrook, Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, is an ardent naturalist. He has made many regional scientific endeavours particularly in the field of ornithology and mammalogy, which are the study of birds and mammals respectively. The Earl’s main ornithological passion is swiftlets. The collection includes precious recordings from his pioneer discovery of echolocation by Malaysian swiftlets, old field notes and correspondences.
Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo is a poet and academic who is regarded as one of the pioneers of English literature in Singapore and her unofficial poet laureate. After receiving his PhD from the NUS Department of English Language and Literature in 1970, he rose to become head of the department from 1977 to 1993. He was also the longest-serving Dean of the Faculty of the Arts and Social Sciences, from 1980 to 1991. The collection consists of manuscripts of poems, book chapters, journal articles, works of literary criticism and personal correspondences.
Born in Muar, Johor in 1915, Koh Kim Yam was the fourth son of the merchant, Koh Peng Chiang who had property holdings in Singapore and Johor. He obtained his medical qualification from King Edward VII College before the outbreak of war, and served at the psychiatric hospital in Tanjong Rambutan, Perak during the Japanese occupation. In December 1944, he was assigned to take care of the Malayan coolies working on the Siam-Burmese railroad where he remained until the Japanese surrender. He returned to Singapore in 1946 to run the re-opened Tanjong Pagar Clinic on Nelson Road. 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 the Middle Road Hospital. He died in his sleep in April 1976. The collection was donated by the family of the late Dr Koh Kim Yan. It consists predominantly of 500 historical documents including private records, manuscripts, awards and medals and estate papers.
Haji Jelaluddin Wang Zengshan (1903-1961) was an important Chinese Muslim leader in modern China during the 1930s-1950s. The collection consists 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 Wang Zengshan. These documents are invaluable for researchers who are interested in Wang Zengshan but for those who are interested in the history and politics of the Chinese Muslims in the first half of the 20th century, they are of the upmost import.