National Museum of Singapore
With a history dating back to its inception in 1887, the National Museum of Singapore is the nation’s oldest museum with a progressive mind. It is custodian of the 11 National Treasures, and its Singapore History and Living Galleries adopt cutting-edge and multi-perspective ways of presenting history and culture to redefine conventional museum experience. A cultural and architectural landmark in Singapore, the Museum hosts innovative festivals and events all year round—the dynamic Night Festival, visually arresting art installations, as well as amazing performances and film screenings—in addition to presenting thought-provoking exhibitions involving critically important collections of artefacts.
The programming is supported by a wide range of facilities and services including F&B, retail and a Resource Centre. The National Museum of Singapore re-opened in December 2006 after a three-year redevelopment, and is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2012.
The architecture of the building itself was attractive to me as everything seems to be labelled clearly and many sections of the museum were inter-linked with one another, allowing one to simply start walking from the entrance and eventually covering the entire place. Whether you are an art critic or simply one who loves the many funny and sometimes astonishing ways which artists tend to portray their creativity, then you should definitely not skip this place.
The prime location, with eateries nearby and close proximity to the Bras Basah MRT station make it accessible. There's no excuse not to visit this wonderful museum and indulge in it all it's sights and (sometimes) sounds.
Our focus was on "critical discourse analysis", and on the way the entire museum was presented, and looking at it through a different lens, I was thoroughly intrigued (and of course, found myself yawning a lot less than during my primary school visits. Really, darn those meaningless time-wasting 'learning journeys' without the "learning"...or much of a "journey" in fact. Huh)
First of all, it's curious how despite it being a "National Museum of Singapore", it's designed somewhat like a British colonial building. Is it meant to convey our the western-ness within our culture, or is it perhaps a nod to our British heritage? Not sure I'd ever find out, but it sure as hell looks good - great even, when contrasted with the boring piddly old buildings found around Singapore.
We were en route to the history part of the museum, and as I walked along, my gaze drifted up - and stayed there. The design is breath-taking, with the towering ceilings and patterns, not to mention the eye-catching colour scheme.
Then came the long spiral staircase. Now, architects never place things for no reason, and as I trudged down the stairs, it felt as though I was descending into something - not quite darkness, but a cave, or revered place of some kind. Really trippy stuff.
Also of note was how the whole exhibit tended to be really dark at the start - going as a primary school kid, I used to make use of this to scare the living crap out of my friends - but got brighter as I traveled along, especially after the part featuring the the times after Singapore was colonized. Symbolism? It seems likely to be so, using even the lighting as a metaphor for Singapore exiting the dark, backwards ages and beginning to progress by leaps and bounds. Really cool stuff.
To be honest, most of the exhibits didn't interest me, and the headphones are a TERRIBLE addition. It makes something already boring even worse, forcing you to not merely gaze emptily at obscure artifacts but to also stand rooted and endure the droning narrations of some half-assed job at voice acting. I remember turning in my listening device at the end of it with almost full battery left. Hey, I saved them the effort of charging it again!
So yeah, it's a really cool place, even without all the trendy night festivals or new exhibits, as long as you go in with a sharp mind that's willing and ready to absorb everything.
And more importantly, damn it, it's now free! What's your excuse for not having gone in, huh? If you're one of those that whine about Singapore's lack of culture while not having even visited our now-free-of-charge-for-entry national museum, shame on you man. This place is worth your time, worth your money (or lack there-of) and can be really intellectually stimulating if you let it be.
I was honestly quite looking forward to reliving those memories although I clearly knew that the experience wouldn’t be same without the fun bus rides where we’d play hand games, poke fun at the opposite gender and pig out on “extremely unhealthy titbits” like potato chips, fries etc. It definitely wouldn’t be the same without having forced to fill in those never-ending activity worksheets with teachers hollering behind you to hurry up.
However, there's still a side of me that suspect it may turn out to a boring-force-fed-overwhelming-info kinda activity. Well, after all, it's a museum, that alone sounds boring enough. But now that locals are entitled to free entrance tickets of several museums, all the more I had nothing to lose. Alas, to our disappointment, there was a snake queue spiralling all around the lobby of NMS. I looked at my friend in earnest plea and we both telepathically agreed that we’re gonna give that queue a miss.
We wandered around and chanced upon two small non-ticketed galleries, one on Singapore food, and the other on Singapore plants and animals. The food gallery was brilliant. It covered the famous few dishes in Singapore like the Chicken Rice Balls, Bak Kut Teh, Satay, Laksa etc. There were many displays which were still familiar in my generation such as the trishaw, satay fan, Chinese porcelain bowls and there were testimonials by elderly hawkers describing the preparation process and way of life of those hawkers in the past.
The other gallery focussed on the unique or common animals and plants found in Singapore. I thought it was a refreshing way of using paintings and drawings to illustrate it instead of pictures and we were totally awed by the fine precision and artistic beauty of these pictures. There were also audio headsets displaying the animal sounds which made it engaging for both adults and adolescents alike.
And I shall leave it to you to explore the charming historic beauty of the main galleries.
On the National Museum Open Day, my family and I had the opportunity to visit the museum at no cost, we visited an exhibition which detailed the history of Singapore and another 4 other museums which each had a theme e.g. food and which also traced Singapore's history in that particular theme. The visit brought a pang of nostalgia to my grandmother who reminisced the past and also gave me an insight into my country's history, my history.
The only regret from the visit was that the accompanying device they gave at the start of the tour was not fully charged and its battery drained even before I could finish my tour.
This is where I thought of the Louvre.
"Aha," you object. 'How is it possible?"
Granted, there is no glass pyramid in the courtyard. Instead, a glass prism joins the two buildings providing a huge glass concourse glass through which the sun streams in dazzling light, but not with the strength that dulls the very effective air conditioning.
Or check out the lovely glass passage with its blue tinted roof, red cedar (?) floors, framing the dome.
I never tire of the spiraling Singapore history gallery with its display of a day in the life of Singapore. The sight and sound display is stunning. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the best in Singapore, and there are several. THe next best is at the exhibit in the URA building in Maxwell Road.
Mind you this building has housed a museum since the 1850s so they should know what they are doing, and they do.
Exhibits rotate regularly, in addition to the permanent exhibitions. It is a place you could visit several times a year. I recall the only disappointment was being dragged along to an exhibit of wedding dresses, but that was different. I never realised that a ball and chain needed so much silk.
There is just so much to see and do here. Take a day at least and enjoy it.
Set in a white colonial-like building with pretty dome shaped architecture, one may say to the girls it is THE place for a nice camwhore session. It is also the favourite spot of for the photo shoot of most wedding couples.
The place is clean, vast in space, and very proper. Inside the museum there are 2 main galleries; history and living. The history gallery is very impressive because it is obvious to me the creators of this gallery has tried their best and are also effective in establishing a path to Singapore's past in the most 'first-hand-experience' way. The history gallery will make visitors feel they are living in Singapore's past and walking down memory lane. Meanwhile there are many unique living galleries, such as fashion, photography and film. Living galleries of course lacks in comparison to the history ones in creating a impactful mood. However, there are still knowledgeable aspects about the living galleries.
I would say give NSM a go because it is quite quiet there and whenever i go there I feel a sense of calm and a ready to let my mind be filled with what information the museum (exhibitions or such) gives me.
Besides my love for their ever changing exhibitions of wide, different variety, i'm practically in love with their architecture and as well as their interior. Whenever I'm in it, i don't feel like I'm in one of the buildings in singapore - and with their eclectic choice of exhibitions, national museum has officially become one of the places I'd love to go every weekend, as an escape from the hectic week!
One can also learn more about Singapore's history as well as learn about the various foods present(or extinct) in our culture. An eye-opener indeed.
Art aside, the details found in the National Museum are also reminiscent of the Art Nouveau period, with the railings and spiral staircase itself evoking art.
"The role of a museum of modern art is to make a good selection and identify what we believe to be the coming movements, and that requires taste."--David Rockefeller
A museum is not only for art lovers and critics, it is friendly to everyone, and I can say that the National Museum has a tasteful selection of artworks.
After the tour, while we were walking around the deserted hallways, a video suddenly came to life the moment I entered a room and Lee Kuan Yew's voice scared the living daylights outta me. It must have been a sensor, I reasoned. Yet after I got my friend to enter the same room twice after that, the TV which is showing the black and white footage of Lee Kuan Yew making a speech earlier stayed off.
It was eerie even thinking about it now. I wonder whether the exhibit is still there somewhere after all these revamps. But even if they were gone, our National Museum is so rich in history that I'm sure the ghosts stayed.