REVIEW: National Museum of Singapore
Last time I visited Singapore I discovered a remarkably captivating state-of-the-art history museum. Yes, history museum! I kid you not.
I know, I know ‘captivating’ and ‘exciting’ are not usually the first words that pop into most people’s minds at the thought of a history museum.
So to best illustrate my point, here’s a video of my entry to the museum:
This is how it all begins. Intrigued yet?
What follows that spectacular, mind-boggling entrance is a vast collection of state-of-the-art interactive displays that use wall-size videos, historical photographs, artifacts, live props, short movies, and oral story-telling via a self-service audio tour that guides visitors through all the intrigues of Singapore’s colorful history.
Before entering, guests are handed their own free audio guide, which gives options on where to go within the musem, what to see and learn. They’ve come up with a creative way to guide guests through the labyrinth of rooms, which are each focused on a particular time period or event in Singapore’s history. The museum floors are marked with large numbers used by the audio guide to steer you to the topics that most interest you.
Throughout the museum, photos, displays, movies and props are labeled with numbers which correspond to audio lessons or information. If you see a photo of a particularly interesting historical character, punch the photo’s number into your audio guide and find out who he/she was! Notice a curious object or prop? Pop in the number and learn what it is. Fun!
During my visit, I watched a 180-degree full-wall movie about the original discovery of Singapore by neighboring explorers. Remarkably, the movie shifted around the room, faded in and out, and transformed into photographs as the story unfolded. The story itself was interesting, but the state-of-the-art visuals made it fascinating.
Captivating professional story-tellers narrate historical events, relate everyday citizens’ experiences and explain unique happenings over seven centuries. Stories are told from the perspective of servants, coolies, upper-class housewives, prostitutes, opium addicts, city leaders, company managers, soldiers, workers on strike, policemen and other real Singaporeans from day’s gone by.
Historical periods represented include the discovery of Singapore, Asian trading route days, the British colonial period, WW II, and an infamous bus strike, among others.
This museum is hands-down and by-far the most amazing history museum I have ever experienced. It was so fascinating that I spent the entire day in those halls, right up until the doors closed. Yet I still didn’t see everything! I loved it so much that I’ll be sure to return next time I visit Singapore.
The Rest of Singapore National Museum
The museum itself is housed in one of Singapore’s architectural landmarks, a gorgeous colonial British building in central Singapore. In addition to the fascinating History Galleries, the museum offers four ‘Living Galleries’ about life in Singapore. They’re focused on the themes of food, the film and wayang (shadow puppets) industry, fashion, and photography.
The living galleries offer the same excellent concept as the history galleries: beautiful visual displays, historical photographs, video presentations based on real citizens’ stories and historical events, and oral story telling.
The intriguing displays and unique perspectives make the entire National Museum seem more like a cultural museum than anything else.
In addition to the permanent galleries, the museum presents temporary exhibitions, festivals, performances, lectures, workshops, films and special events.
I was fortunate to catch the beautiful temporary cheongsam exhibition. Cheongsam are traditional Chinese dresses. ‘In the Mood for Cheongsam: Modernity and Singapore Women’ traces the ever-changing cheongsam styles, designs and fabric over the decades from the 1920s, with the premise that fashions shed light onto each time periods’ events, social outlooks and the stance of women. Great exhibit. Beautiful dresses.
National Museum Entrance fee: $10 Sing ($8 US)
Free guided tours are offered in English several days per week.
Facilities include a museum shop, a cafe, and a restaurant
Access, directions, opening hours and information about special events and exhibitions are found on the website: National Museum.sg
The National Museum is located on the north side of Fort Canning Hill in central Singapore city at 93 Stamford Rd. It’s a 10-15 minute walk from Little India or Orchard Road. From Singapore River’s Clark Quay it’s a 15-20 minute walk. You can also reach the museum by several public buses and the Metro.