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UNESCO adds NLB's historical Asian children’s lit into register

UNESCO adds NLB's historical Asian children’s lit into register

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The National Library Board’s (NLB) Historical Asian Children’s Literature Collection (HACL) has been recognised by the UNESCO Memory of the World Committee for Asia Pacific (MOWCAP) as an indelible part of the region’s culture and heritage. The register is a listing of those “documentary heritage of influence” in the Asia/Pacific region approved for inclusion by MOWCAP.

The HACL, which comprises about 5,000 books produced from 1890 to 1990, and the collection features mainly fictional titles, including folk-tales, fairy tales and historical fiction set in Asia. It also includes a selection of biographical stories of historical figures in Asia, and books on travel, socio-cultural issues and customs in Asia. The collection comprises bilingual works, and titles in English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, as well as other Asian languages. The works originating from Asia, HACL places a special emphasis on collecting and preserving literature from Southeast Asia. Many of these titles are one-of-a-kind or no longer available or in print elsewhere. In the late 20th century, the HACL was the only known research collection of children’s books in English in the region. Selected highlights of the collection are in the Annex.

The recognition of the HACL’s importance to the documentary heritage of the Asia Pacific region affirms NLB’s commitment to preserve heritage material and make them accessible for future generations. NLB is also exploring the digitalisation of the HACL texts for patrons, including scholars and researchers, to discover and learn from.

NLB’s chief executive officer, Ng Cher Pong, said: “The works in our HACL provide us valuable and important insights into the cultural heritage of Asia, and in particular Southeast Asia, by shedding light on the cultural practices, beliefs, identity and values of generations past.”

As Singapore’s storyteller, a key role under NLB’s LAB25, NLB seeks to deepen the understanding and appreciation of Singapore’s heritage through preserving and increasing accessibility to such works. NLB is grateful for UNESCO’s nod of affirmation with the inclusion of the HACL in its MOWCAP Regional Register, Ng added.

The HACL is Singapore’s and NLB’s second addition to the UNESCO MOWCAP Regional Register. In 2014, the Asian Film Archives (AFA), an NLB subsidiary, was similarly recognised for its efforts to preserve significant documentary heritage through its Cathay-Keris Malay Classics Collection of 91 historically and culturally important Malay language films from the 1950s to 1970s.

Established in 1998, MOWCAP is the regional forum for UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme (MOWP), which aims to facilitate the preservation of, enable public access to, and increase public awareness of the world’s documentary heritage. Documentary heritage, recognised by MOWCAP to be of international, regional and national significance, are included in the MOWCAP register every two years.

On a separate note, NLB partnered with DDB Group Singapore (DDB) to launch a limited-edition reusable book bag, as part of the sixth edition of its annual upcycling initiative, the LampPost Project, in early August. 

Made from upcycled National Day 2021 banners and flags, each book bag is sewn by less-privileged Singaporeans from Sembawang Family Service Centre’s SOWERS Project (SFSC). SFSC seeks to empower people from underprivileged backgrounds by equipping them with skills and a means of earning supplementary income.

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