Officially established in 1878, the natural history collection originally housed at the Raffles Museum now has more than 560,000 specimens in its care, one of the largest collections of Southeast Asian plants and animals. Dedicated to scientific research and education, the museum was reincarnated as the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in 2015, closing the loop on its remarkable 127-year history.
But beneath the sleek exterior of the museum's new, modern building lies a saga of struggle and change. That the collections survived at all through the multiple challenges of the nineteenth century, the disruption of World War Two, and its potential disintegration in the face of Singapore's modernization is nothing short of miraculous. Of Whales and Dinosaurs is not only an institutional history of the museum but also recounts the frustrations, tenacity, and courage of the numerous individuals who battled officialdom, innovated endlessly, and overcame the odds to protect Singapore's natural history heritage.
Of Whales and Dinosaurs features 108 historical photographs and natural history illustrations printed in full colour throughout.
Kevin Y. L. Tan has written and edited some 30 books on the law, history and politics of Singapore.