History Is Exciting Again – NMS Reopens Permanent Galleries

Media Invite

The National Museum of Singapore re-opens its permanent galleries to the public on Saturday and Sunday, 19 & 20 September with a Opening Weekend Carnival!

Everyone is invited. There will be NO admission fees this weekend!

I had a sneak peak into the revamped Permanent Galleries to see what’s new…

The permanent galleries comprise the following:

  1. Singapore History Gallery (Level 1)
  2. Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years (Level 2)
  3. Goh Seng Choo Gallery (Level 2)

Singapore History Gallery 

The last time I heard the word archipelago was in my history classes some 20 years ago. So, when I walked into the National Museum of Singapore to be greeted by a wall-sized flat screen interactive map of the archipelago, I thought, man I wish I had this in history class! It will make studying it and memorizing it so much easier!!

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The magnifying glass moves across the map as it explains the geographical positions and the movements of key events in those days. This gives a very good overview of the history and sets the stage of what is to come as we move into the permanent galleries.

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Over 1,700 artefacts are displayed in the new galleries. Many are significant historical artefacts from the national collection, such as the Singapore Stone which dates back to the 10th –14th centuries, the 19th -century Sejarah Melayu, and the larger-than-life portraits of Sir 2 Frank Athelstane Swettenham, Sir Shenton Whitelegge Thomas and Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (picture below).

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The exhibition offered on display a number of relics like this anchor salvaged from the pre-war passenger liner that was converted into a troopship during the war, RMS Empress of Asia (1940s) and this Type 95 Ha Go Japanese tank that was most commonly used in World War II.

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This replica was one of four tanks constructed for the Steven Spielberg Hollywood blockbuster The Pacific starring Tom Hanks.

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The Singapore History Gallery brings you from the beginning of Singapura (1299–1818) — Where does Singapore’s history begin? to the Crown Colony (1819–1941) with the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles and Major William Farquhar in Singapore.  Then on to the difficult Syonan-To (1942–1945) years and finally ending in post war Singapore (1945 to present) where there are seven sub-section sections —

  1. Rallies and Riots
  2. Merger and Separation
  3. A Nation in the Making
  4. Building an Economy
  5. Building a Home
  6. Transforming the Landscape and
  7. Becoming a Global City

I did not have time to browse too long. There is so much to see. But these are some of the things that made an impression on me. A Japanese Occupation poster

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This is an actual door in the Changi Prison that house the soldiers of war during the Japanese Occupation. It was acquired from the prison prior to its closure.

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I grew up with this poster propagandising the government’s message for Singaporean families to stop producing more children. It was on every billboard, in the papers, magazines, you name it. It was everywhere. “Two is enough!” was the message back then. Today, two is apparently NOT enough as our government sing to a very different tune with the gift of baby bonuses.

What made this poster memorable is that the older girl in the poster is a schoolmate of mine. I bet she never thought she would make it into the history museum when she posed for that poster!

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Bringing You Back In Time 

What I really like about these new galleries is that the stories and significance behind the artefacts are brought to life through contextual displays, ambient sounds, multimedia platforms as well as interactive platforms to allow visitors to have an immersive experience as they rediscover Singapore’s history.

Your 5 senses are engaged as you explore the history of Singapore. I truly believe that all students, especially those studying the histories of Singapore SHOULD pay a visit to the permanent galleries at the National Museum of Singapore. History will not be dry and dull because you can listen to it, watch it, touch it, feel it and even smell it at these galleries.

It will really make more sense to our children / students as they “relive” the days when Singapore’s independence was declared, step into the kitchen of an HDB flat from the 1970s and 1980s, be greeted by the aroma of afternoon tea on entering an old colonial bungalow, watch a new film in a drive-in cinema from the 1980s and experience what life was like during the Japanese Occupation.

LISTEN: Put on the headphones and listen to the sounds and the narrative of the period.

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WATCH: Videos make the kampung life feel realistic to you. Watch the countryside, homes and people change from one period to the next and relive the history in making with our two premier ministers — David Marshall and Lee Kuan Yew. 

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SMELL: The museum engaged leading fragrance and flavour developer Givaudan to develop scents that add another sensory dimension to the galleries. Givaudan created two ambient scents – the “After Rain” scent in the Transforming the Landscape section of the Singapore History Gallery, and an “Afternoon Tea” scent in the Life in Singapore: Modern Colony gallery.

There are also seven scent stations for visitors at the Singapore History – Singapore (1945 to present) section. Discover scents like the tembusu flowers (picture below), the breadflower and if you dare, the smell of old polluted Singapore River.

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AND, as part of the collaboration, Givaudan created and launched  a new fragrance created especially for Singapore’s 50th year of independence called “City”, which is sold at the National Museum’s Museum Label shop for SGD$80. All proceeds will be donated to the museum.

Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years 

Without spoiling your fun, I am going to just show a pictorial of these stations and let you explore the galleries on your own.

Modern Colony (1925 – 1935)

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Surviving Syonan (1942 – 1945)

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Growing Up (1955 – 1965)

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Voices of Singapore (1975 – 1985)

New installations commissioned for this gallery are the highlight.

Pursuit of Leisure TV Wall Projection

The rapid industrialisation of Singapore in the late 1960s and 1970s led to the creation of a new social culture where work and leisure were seen as separate entities. Improvements in education, jobs, housing and affluence also supported the pursuit of leisure. Infrastructure such as new hotels, shopping complexes, amusement centres and theme parks were built to encourage shopping, eating out and entertainment. Tourism was also a major industry by the 1980s and had, through its campaigns, created an attractive, modern Singapore as a holiday destination. This wall installation presents a nostalgic view of leisure activities in Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s. Video footage, Courtesy of Professor Vincent Ong and Y T Seeto and the National Archives of Singapore

Remembering the Jurong drive-in cinema

This video installation is inspired by the drive-in cinema in Jurong (1971–1985). One of Asia’s largest drive-ins at the time, the popular cinema could accommodate nearly 900 vehicles. The two nightly and Saturday midnight screenings attracted packed audiences. These numbers dwindled by the mid- 1980s, largely due to the advent of video. The drive-in cinema was part of a group of leisure spots in western Singapore, which included the Jurong Bird Park (opened in 1971), Japanese Garden (built in 1974) and Chinese Garden (built in 1975). The montage was created by Eva Tang, an acclaimed young Singaporean filmmaker. She is inspired by the different film genres and themes popular with Singaporean audiences in the 1970s and 1980s.

Goh Seng Choo Gallery

Discover the fine line between Desire and Danger at this stimulating new exhibition at the Goh Seng Choo Gallery. Featuring creatures that arouse appetites and instil fear, and exotic plants sought for their ability to induce pleasure or pain, this selection of drawings from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings explores the complex and sometimes uneasy relationship between man and nature.

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Gallery Opening Hours:

   Daily10 am – 7 pm
   Last admission  6:30 pm

Admission: FREE for Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and visitors under 6 years old.

Adult: SGD$10
Students: SGD$5
Seniors: SGD$5

Guided tours commence from 3 October 2015. Visitors can enquire at the Visitor Services counter

Meiling Wong

Meiling is a Singaporean mom who loves spending time with her 2 kids until they ditch her for slime-making and digital gaming. These days, she keeps herself busy trying to keep up with the social media while still contemplating if she should learn how to play "Clash Royale".

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