September 16, 2015

Trust us, this one’s not just for history buffs, though they’d probably be very, very interested. The new permanent galleries at the National Museum have finally been re-opened, and they’re inviting us to take a step back in time.

In this case, it’s Singapore’s history, including defining moments that date back to 700 years ago, all the way to the independent, modern city we have today, all presented via immersive exhibits. These include interactive ones, like scent stations and a multimedia art piece, alongside the 1,700 artefacts, such as a 1959 flexidisc recording of “Majulah Singapura” before it became the national anthem.

More on what you can see though. There are three revamped galleries here – the Singapore History Gallery and Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years, where they present our country’s history through various perspectives, while the last one, the Goh Seng Choo Gallery, features more natural history displays. Here’s what to look out for when you visit.

1. Singapore History Gallery — Level One

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All these chronicle our journey of nationhood, from post-war struggles to today’s global city.

Who: Excited history buffs who can’t wait to quote lines from their social studies textbooks. People who fall asleep at history classes, who might find that walking around this interactive “classroom” is way more conducive.

Sections: Singapura, Crown Colony, Syonan-To, Singapore

What’s interesting:

  • You get to smell Tembusu flowers… and the polluted Singapore River. These are created by leading fragrance and flavour developer Givaudan, who has developed new scents just for the galleries. More “normal” scents like Afternoon Tea and various flowers can be found in the other halls.
  • Impressive art installations. There’s a life-sized “tree” installation that showcases the sounds, smells, and footage of our native flora and fauna. The other one’s an artwork, GoHead/GoStan: Panorama Singapura, by Singaporean artists Brandon Tay and Safuan Johari, that will take you through an audio-visual expedition of the various periods in Singapore’s history. This also marks the first time the museum has commissioned and included an art installation within the gallery’s narrative. Now, that’s history in the making.
  • The Singapore Stone. Dated back to the 10 – 14th century, discovered when the British arrived in Singapore in 1819, the sandstone boulder used to be at the mouth of the Singapore River.
  • A colonial ship display. And a replica of a Type 95 Ha Go Japanese tank.
  • The Surrender Table, the actual table on which the the British surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army in February 1942. The table is displayed at the National Museum on a one year loan from the Australian War Memorial.

2. Life in Singapore: The Past 100 Years — Level Two

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Snapshots of everyday life through the different eras of our history.

Who: Millennials and kids who’ve always wondered how their parents and grandparents lived, without having to listen to old grandfather stories. Parents and grandparents who want to show these young folks how it’s like in the past – and how easy they have it these days.

Sections: Modern Colony, Surviving Syonan, Growing Up, Voices of Singapore

What’s interesting:

  • A 1959 flexidisc recording of “Majulah Singapura” before it became the national anthem.
  • A wedding certificate, beautiful wedding wash basin, and wedding rings from a couple who got married during World War Two. You get to hear about their story, including a close encounter with Japanese soldiers, while other artefacts let you experience what life was like during the Japanese Occupation.
  • Growing Up, where you get to see the 1950s-1960s through the eyes of a child growing up alongside the nation.
  • A drive-in cinema installation, complete with cars. This video installation is inspired by the drive-in cinema in Jurong that closed down in 1985.

3. Goh Seng Choo Gallery: Desire and Danger — Level Two

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This covers feared animals, exotic plants and their usefulness, framed in a way that explores “complex and sometimes uneasy relationship between man and natures”.

Who: If you’d like to get up close and personal with nature.

What’s interesting:

  • A selection of drawings from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings.
  • Scent stations, so you know how agarwood and breadflower smell like.

Better still, there’s an opening weekend, on 19 and 20 September, that will have fun-filled activities where you can dress up in vintage costumes, make old-school paper planes, or get treated to nostalgic local eats. And there’s free admission for all.

National Museum of Singapore: New Permanent Galleries Opening Weekend

Venue: National Museum of Singapore
Date: 19 and 20 September 2015
Time: 10am to 6pm
Admission: Free Admission for all Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and foreign visitors during the opening weekend

For more info