Gardens in the spotlight again

Kezia Toh The Straits Times AsiaOne 17 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE - On the tail of the 155-year-old Singapore Botanic Gardens' bid last month to be a Unesco World Heritage Site, an exhibition dedicated to it has opened at the National Museum of Singapore.

The process of obtaining rubber is the focus of the More Than A Garden exhibition, a nod to its key role in boosting the early 20th-century prosperity of Malaya and Singapore.

Visitors can smell and touch a smoked rubber sheet, view a video and see rubber tapping tools as well as what was used to transport rubber seedlings.

Ms Jean Wee, director of the Preservation of Sites and Monuments division at the National Heritage Board, says the exhibition gives the public an idea of why the Gardens has been submitted as a Unesco bid. "People have asked us, 'Are you sure the Gardens can make it?' I want them to understand why we are putting in the Gardens, and for them to understand how significant rubber was as a crop that transformed our landscape and our economy at that time.

"We still have a long road ahead of us," says Ms Wee, adding that she hopes to receive clarifications on the bid by December this year.

The 222 sq m exhibition will also touch on the stories of four pioneering rubber tycoons in Singapore such as Tan Kah Kee, and includes a recording of Henry Nicholas Ridley's voice.

Ridley, the first scientific director of the Gardens, served for 23 years from 1888 and was called the "father" of the rubber industry. He was known for convincing Malayan coffee planters to grow rubber trees instead, and developing a more efficient method of latex gathering without damaging the tree.
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