top of page
Black and white photo of kampong villagers smiling and talking

Discover another side of Southeast Asia

Artefacts from the past documenting life in and around post-war Southeast Asia from the perspective of Dr. Ivan Polunin.

As seen on


It was marvellous to have somebody with this incurable and irrepressible curiosity about the natural world.

He seemed to know all the extraordinary sides of it, that a more conventional middle of the lane biologist would not know about. It didn't matter what it was, you could just ring up Ivan, ‘Have you heard of this?’ And he nearly always had.

Irrepressibly cheerful, irrepressibly curious, inquisitive... Someone who relished the bizarre, the strange, remotely interesting things that most people would overlook, or never hear about… The odder it was, the stranger it was… The more delighted he was in it.

– Sir David Attenborough
Dr. Ivan Polunin lying in the mud in a mangrove, smiling, with a camera ready to capture photographs of mudskippers

Get to know Ivan Polunin

Dr. Ivan Polunin was a medical doctor who spent most of his working life teaching medical students in Social Medicine and Public Health in the University of Singapore, and in researching the natural history of Southeast Asia.


He arrived in Malaya as a young doctor in 1948 to serve his military service after the war. He stayed on, married and became a Singaporean PR, living here till the end of his life in 2010. In addition to his writings, he documented his research extensively through film, photography and musical recordings of traditional music.

See him in action

Where his work was featured

Logo of Prime Minister's Office (PMO), a government agency of Singapore
Logo of the news agency Channel News Asia (CNA)
Logo of National Library Board (NLB), a government agency of Singapore
Logo of NUS Museum
Logo of NParks, a government agency of Singapore
Logo of National Heritage Board (NHB), a government agency of Singapore

Archival material is proudly maintained by

Logo of Ivan Polunin Multimedia Lab
Image of fireflies lighting up in the dark

Stay updated

We have exciting new announcements to make soon. If you're interested in keeping updated on our upcoming projects, subscribe to our mailing list.

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page