Island of Stories: Singapore Maps

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in NAS Exhibitions

Island of Stories: Singapore Maps was an exhibition jointly developed by the National Archives of Singapore and National Library Board, showcasing maps from the National Archive’s collection. The exhibition, which was part of the National Library Board’s 2015 Geo-Graphics Mapping Festival, drew on an eclectic mix of Singapore maps that captured intriguing moments from our nation’s history. Featuring maps of forgotten mileage points to the island’s farmland and soil composition, stories of the former detached mole at Marina Bay, the Orchard Road ‘circus’ and the election fever of 1955 – these maps weaved a quirky, multifaceted story of Singapore’s past.

The exhibition was held at level 11 of the National  Library’s Lee Kong Chian Library between 16 January – 19 July 2015. Maps featured in the exhibition included:

Zero-Point: Singapore’s Milestones

Milestones, literally large stones placed at one-mile intervals from each other, served as markers of location island wide before we had regularised postal codes and prominent landmarks, particularly in the rural areas. This 1936 map shows the location of the various milestones across Singapore. These took their ‘zero point’ from the General Post Office at the Fullerton Building (today’s Fullerton Hotel) Milestones were used for postage, for way-finding, for estimating distance and transportation fares, and as meeting points.


Source: Survey Department, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore Ref: SP001403

The Malayan Campaign Through Maps

This map drawn up by British military planners on the last day of the Battle of Singapore, 15th Feb  1942, shows only question marks instead of troop positions, reflecting the complete confusion which prevailed on the day the British surrendered to the Japanese.


Source: National Archives of United Kingdom, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore Ref: SP006471

Fields of Gold: Farming Singapore, 1947

Singapore’s troubles did not end with the close of Japanese Occupation in 1945. The post-war years were a tough period of rehabilitation marked by chronic food shortage. The map shows how Singapore found ways to feed itself. The portions in bright yellow, show over a quarter of the island being devoted to farming food crops, mostly vegetables and tapioca. The numerous arrows surrounding the island were fish traps to catch seafood for local consumption.


Source: Patricia Margaret Browne, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore Ref: TM001116

Making of an Aviation Hub

Air travel then was very different in 1938 compared to today. As seen from the map, direct flights were rare – Singapore was directly connected only to Penang in Malaya and Palembang in Indonesia. Multiple stop flights were the norm and air travellers from Singapore reached Hong Kong only after six stops!


Source: Survey Department, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore Ref: AV000005

 Urban Concepts – Alternative Visions of Singapore: 1967-1971

Singapore might have looked like this! The Kak Plan, depicted here, was one of 13 concept plans drawn up by the Planning Department between 1967-1970. It envisioned Singapore organised around a large central parkway circled by a highway system connecting satellite towns to the city centre.


Source: Planning Department, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore Ref: Planning Department Annual Report, 1967-1968