Patron Of Heritage Awards

The Awards – Reproductions of selected pieces from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings

Awards Pepper


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.

Chris Yap
Artist and Founder of Light Editions

The digitisation of the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings is supported by the Cultural Matching Fund.