Moving Forward: The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology

Yesterday over lunch, we were reminiscing about pagers and how a beep used to send us hunting for a payphone, where 10 cents was ticket to the exclusive world of secret personal voice messages. Slowly, this was replaced by a “brick” with buttons and an antenna, the first consumer mobile phone to appear in Singapore.

Fast forward to 15 years later, technology has become so revolutionarily powerful and accessible to almost everyone, and it continues to evolve at an accelerating pace. And we at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research are gritting our teeth hard, struggling to keep up. Considering how archaic natural history museums tend to be (our instinctive response to ‘digital’ is ‘anatomy’), our ability to keep up with technology tends to fall short of our desire to do so.

Charlie's right hand

Check out our digital collection.
This hand (and the rest of the skeleton of this orang utan) will be on display in the new museum in 2014. Restored and photographed by Kate Pocklington.

The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology (RBZ), a journal currently published by the museum, began some 85 years ago. And since you and I are both aware that age is a common ingredient for technology fear, you will be able to understand our general sense of reluctance to keep up with the evolving publishing industry towards electronic publications.

Thankfully, our previous Managing Editor, Dr Tan Swee Hee, painstakingly paved the way for RBZ’s digital presence in 2005. Since that year, RBZ issues have been produced in PDF and published on the web freely downloadable to everyone, in addition to our usual print circulation. This leap in accessibility increased our journal’s readership, and our impact factor has risen steadily over the years. (Dr Tan Swee Hee has since moved on to a much more ambitious project—the building of the $46 million Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. You can help him with this insane project too, find out how here.)

And now, under the leadership of our current Managing Editor Dr Tan Heok Hui, we are finally chasing down the electronic bandwagon and making that final jump. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology has just produced its last printed issue, and is transforming into an electronic-only journal with effect from January 2014. In the coming months, the Editorial Team will be preparing for a brand new repackaged Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. Read all about the juicy changes in the latest Editorial message by Dr Tan. We are deeply excited (and nervous) about the upcoming digital reincarnation of our journal, and we hope that you are too.

Dr Tan Heok Hui

Dr Tan Heok Hui’s eyes are sparkling with excitement because of the upcoming changes! Photograph by Christopher Puan.

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