The Awards – Reproductions of selected pieces from the William
Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings
The William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings is a gift by donor and
philanthropist, Mr GK Goh. It comprises 477 watercolour drawings commissioned
by William Farquhar while he was Resident of Melaka and prior to his tenure as
Singapore’s first Resident and Commandant. Painted most probably by Chinese artists in the
Western manner, this remarkable collection of natural history drawings provides
a unique glimpse into the history of Singapore and the Malay Peninsula during
the early 19th century.
Farquhar brought the original drawings with him when he left Singapore, and
subsequently donated them to the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1827. The
collection was offered for auction in 1993, when it was purchased by Mr GK Goh,
who donated the entire set to the National Museum of Singapore.
The three drawings selected for fine reproduction as awards are of spices and
herbs of historical and culinary significance to Singapore: pepper, Indonesian
bay leaf and clove.
The Awards - The Production Process
Digitising the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings was a
technologically complex task. The delicate nature of the original drawings
added to the challenge. It was, nevertheless, an extremely rewarding process,
to play a part in preserving our heritage for the future generations.
The drawings were first photographed under exact anti-UV lighting conditions to
ensure accurate colour rendition. Thereafter, colouring processes – adjustments
to white balance, colour balance (hue/ saturation), etc. – had to be carried out
for each image individually, while cross-referencing to the original, in order to
capture the exact colouring of the drawing. Throughout the process, it was
crucial that the original drawings were handled with proper care and in line with
heritage conservation standards.
For the Patron of Heritage Awards 2017, the digitised drawings were printed on
archival paper - made with acid-free, lignin-free 100% cotton fibres – for better
permanence under archival standards and colour-fastness of the prints.
Artist and Founder of Light Editions
The digitisation of the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings is supported by the Cultural Matching Fund.